For Lawrence’s family

March 2014.

Indian tigers, eternal Himalayas

Dear Lawrence,

I am delighted to be able to welcome you and your family to the majesty of India. Your journey will span cities, architecture, teeming wildernesses and vast, resplendent mountains. The trip will be wondrous and diverse, and the memories will travel back with you to your home country.

Day 1: Arrival

When you disembark from your plane you and your family will immediately be enthralled by the rich bustle and charm of Delhi, which will act as the hub for your India adventure. It is the greatest example of organised chaos—the municipal clamour for which Delhi is so famous.

You will likely arrive with some jet lag, and Rupa will be waiting for you at the airport to guide you to your hotel and give you some welcome refreshments. Bathe, dine and sink into bed for some rejuvenating sleep before the true adventure unfolds tomorrow.

Day 2: The Majesty of the Taj Mahal

Today, you will travel toward the sprawling grandeur of Agra. You will savour a delicious lunch on the terrace of the lush green Amarvilas, overlooking the striking majesty of the Taj Mahal.

Once you have dined, you can visit the sunset-coloured Agra Fort where military might and pristine aesthetics combine. It was there that Shah Jahan died after being imprisoned by his own son Aurangzeb.

In the afternoon, you can explore the Taj Mahal itself. The hauntingly beautiful mausoleum was built by Indian artists and artisans and acts as a sought after place of pilgrimage. Observing the building’s full size and might up close is a breath-taking experience.

To finish the day with a little magic, enjoy your dinner on a private hilltop overlooking the Taj Mahal. You will then stay at the splendorous Amarvilas for a restful night.

Day 3: Sloth bears and elephants

As you rise and return to Delhi, stop at the Wildlife S.O.S Sanctuary to see the charmingly characterful sloth bears and regal, soulful elephants. The two animals are listed as vulnerable and endangered respectively, a designation which marks a critical step in preserving their species.

This non-profit offers a brighter life for the previously abused and neglected animals, forced to perform at roadsides and prance in circuses in Agra and Jaipur. It will be a poignant few hours, and the earnest gaze of a maned Sloth Bear and grand rumbling of a sensitive, mighty elephant will make the emotion wholly worthwhile.

Return to Delhi and spend another lusciously comfortable night at the Marriott Hotel before embarking on a journey into India’s untamed wilderness tomorrow.

Day 4: The journey to Kanha

The morning will begin with a quick flight from Delhi to Jabalpur, the gateway to Kanha National Park in the proud state of Madhya Pradesh. Nicknamed “the heart of India,” the state of Madhya Pradesh encompasses scattered remnants of bygone ages and a dazzling array of wildlife sanctuaries and parks.

Disembark from the plane to your car and be enthralled throughout the drive to Kanha, absorbing the array of sights and culture. Away from the sprawling, rapidly expanding urban city center lies a plethora of experiences and views. Over 60% of India’s population is rural, so venturing from the inner city will fully breathe life into your Indian experience.

Once you arrive at Kanha you can stretch your legs and settle into Banjaar Tola Camp, nestled just outside the gate above the Banjaar riverbank. The ethereal sounds of flora and fauna will lull you into a serene sleep, ready for the exhilaration of sightseeing awaiting you tomorrow.

Day 5: Banjaar Tola Camp

The day will be spent roaming the park in private game drives where you can delight in seeking out the bounty of wildlife. You may spot gaur, deer, monkeys, a phenomenal array of wild birds and, if you’re brilliantly lucky, the fierce splendour of a tiger.

Kanha is also renowned for its population of rare water barasingha, a silver-speckled swamp deer boasting a splendid set of antlers with fourteen tines or more.

Return to camp and spend another night lullabied by the soft ripples of the river from your beautifully integrated tent suite.

Day 6: A Glimpse of a tiger

If you didn’t steal a glimpse of a flame-orange tiger yesterday, you just might today with morning and afternoon game drives. Even if the tiger eludes you, you might see another of India’s proud predators—the red dhole, famous for its vocal and communicative nature. You might hear these creatures “whistling” as they run amok in their closely-knit packs in pursuit of errant prey such as wild boar or spotted chital deer.

You will remain at the camp for the last night at Banjaar Tola Camp, soothed to sleep by insect and bird song under a sky awash with stars.

Day 7: Roaming the Indian wilds

Rise with the birds and drive to your second camp, the location of which will depend on weather and your own preferences. Rupa will be sure to inform and include you in the process of choosing location. Here, you will sink into the scenery of green grasses rolling into gold sun-kissed brush and vast expanses of sky, unchecked by urban smog. The lush sal and bamboo forests seem to span forever, occasionally opening into emerald meadows, or “maidans.”

You might hear the bark of a jackal sounding the hunt, or a deer chirping an alarm, and there will always be raucous, earnest birdsong sung heartily by the 175 bird species living here. In the evening relax at camp, and then spend another night surrounded by the myriad of sounds and sights of India’s wild.

Day 8: Final night under the stars

Spend a second day in your camp, choosing to either stretch and luxuriate in the wild environment from the comfort of the camp, or branching out on drives to explore even more of the vast, vibrant wilderness. The panoramic expanses hold a bounteous assembly of flora and fauna all set against truly spectacular views.

Remember to scan the bustling expanse for the four-horned chousingha antelope, an unobtrusive, dainty animal bristling with four short-pronged horns. It ranks alongside the tiger for introversion and elusiveness so if you catch a glimpse of one, you’re a rare and lucky individual.

Allow the comfort of camp to lull you to sleep a little early, as tomorrow will be an exhilarating day full of travel through breath-taking scenery.

Day 9: The eternal Himalayas

Bid farewell to the throngs of wildlife, colour and sound of Madhya Pradesh and travel back to the charming bedlam of Delhi. The human uproar and affability is a far cry from the starker wild landscapes of Kanha, but quintessentially Indian nonetheless.

Per your preferences, I have left you a menu of options for this final leg of your journey. From here, you can venture to the Kingdom of Bhutan for an extension to your stellar Indian trip. The Kingdom is the only place in the world to measure the gross happiness of its inhabitants.

Or, if you’d prefer, you can visit Ananda in the foothills of the timeless, glittering Himalayas to sample a blend of Ayurveda, Yoga and Vedanta. Another option is the serene Vana Retreats, which explores every aspect of your wellbeing: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual, nestled below the prehistoric Mussoorie hills.

Both of these wellness retreats are accessible by a flight to Dehradun, a sprawling northern city of light and civilisation, and then a one-and-a-half-hour drive through the “Land of the Gods” Uttarakhand, so named for its Hindu temples centres of pilgrimage. The utterly spectacular nature of your surroundings will make every moment of the trip as sublime as the last.

If you require anything more, Lawrence, or wish to discuss an aspect of your upcoming visit to India, please do not hesitate to let me know. I look forward to welcoming you and your family to the vast vibrancy and rich culture of India, from its wild heart to glittering cultured north.