The overnight train journey passed without incident and we arrived in Agra. We spent a day with the crowds  visiting the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort. Then it was time to say good bye to three members of the group. Our next stop was the River Chambal. This was an area that we knew little about. Other than there was the possibility of seeing Gangetic River Dolphin and  the Critically Endangered Gharial. 

Critically Endangered Female Gharial on the River Chambal


Critically Endangered Female Gharial

About an  hour and a half drive from Agra we arrived at Mela Kothi – The Chambal Safari Lodge and settled in for our stay. This is an excellent lodge set in a very rural area surrounded  by extensive farm land. Following a delicious four course evening meal  we retired to our lodge. Ready the next day for yet another early start.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bandits and Outlaws

The drive to the river took us through numerous rural villages a part of Rajasthan we hadn’t seen before.  As we got closer to the river the scenery changed dramatically to a semi-arid region cut by deep ravines. The Chambal Ravines are a labyrinthine maze of deep gullies formed by accelerated erosion during the wet seasons. Eddie informed us that the area is also known as the Chambal Badlands. It’s one of the most extensive badlands in the world. Also until very recently it was ruled by bandits and outlaws who committed robberies, kidnappings and murders.  According to local police some are still active within the ravines which are still providing safe hide-outs for them.

The Chambal Ravines


The Chambal Ravines

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Chambal River

The river appeared through the mist with a partially built bridge eerily sticking out of the water. A very overcrowded ferry crossed precariously from the muddy bank. Once down by the river we walked from the coach to the boat and spotted a Long-legged Buzzard and Indian Tent Turtles.

Long-legged Buzzard


Long-legged Buzzard

After transferring to a small dinghy we set off down river. Despite the area being shrouded in early morning mist it wasn’t long before we began to spot numerous wading birds. These included Egrets, Herons, Storks and Whistling ducks feeding along the shore line, many of them familiar UK species.

Common Sandpiper


Common Sandpiper

Pair of Black Winged Stilt


Pair of Black Winged Stilt

Beach Thick Knee


Beach Thick Knee

After a hour the sun begun to burn off the mist revealing a wide river with extensive sand banks and deep gullies in the bank. Before long we had spotted Osprey, Marsh Harrier and a nesting pair of Bonelli’s Eagles, River Terns and Black-bellied Terns,  Some species allowed the boat to get very close  notable a Little Ringed Plover and Egyptian Vulture.

Egyptian Vulture


Egyptian Vulture

Little Ringed Plover


Little Ringed Plover

A little further down the river we came across a number of the critically endangered Gharial together with some huge Mugger Crocodiles basking on the sand. One of the large male Gharial was noticeably missing part of the lower jaw.

Male Ghariar with missing lower jaw


Male Ghariar with missing lower jaw

Mugger-Crocodile


Mugger Crocodile

Suddenly in front of us a disturbance in the water signaled the arrival of a pair of Gangetic river Dolphins. Noisily splashing and fleeting appearing out of the water they were almost impossible to photograph. All of this before we docked our boat close to a sand bank to have breakfast,

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back at the Lodge

We headed back to the lodge  and had lunch and some rest. Later in the afternoon we took a walk around the lodge finding a pair of Spotted Owlets, a large flock of roosting fruit bats and a group of Nilgai antelope. After another superb  dinner we went for another short night walk. This time spotting a Palm Civet up a tree! 

 Palm civet famous for producing Kopi luwak, or civet coffee, from defecated part-digested coffee cherries.


Palm civet famous for producing Kopi luwak from defecated part-digested coffee cherries..

Spotted Owlet


Spotted Owlet

Next morning it was another early drive back to the Chambal  for another river safari and something very special. We hadn’t gone very far down river before we spotted a female Jungle Cat hunting on the bank. After watching the cat for sometime and getting some great images it disappeared into the undergrowth. As we continued on our way along the river we heard a second  Cat  calling. Suddenly there was a large male and the female  obviously engaged in a very noisy mating game

Indian Jungle Cat


Indian Jungle Cat

On  rest of the river safari we  found an Osprey feeding on a kill and Bonelli’s Eagles flying above us with nesting materials. There were more Muggers, Gharial and fleeting  glimpses of  Gangetic Dolphins. 
After  lunch back at the lodge, we packed for our three-hour drive to Bharatpur, Rajasthan.

Bonellis Eagle with nest material


Bonellis Eagle with nest material

Osprey hunting along the Chambal river


Osprey hunting along the Chambal river