History, culture & wildlife of India vacation

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Departure information

This trip can be tailor made at a time to suit you and can be adapted to suit your interests, budget and requirements as necessary
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Vacation type

Traveling with a local operator

This vacation is operated by a company based in the vacation destination and they will be able to provide expert local knowledge. They will be able to tailor make your vacation to suit your requirements not only concerning the dates of travel but also typically the standard of accommodation, and thus price. It is rare for local operators to be able to help with the booking of your flights.

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: History, culture & wildlife of India vacation

This operator was created with the vision to run and manage a business that would offer our guests traveling to India an extremely personal form of travel, shared with members of the family.

We are based in the Nilgiri Hills of TamilNadu situated in the forested Western Ghats. These forested hills used to be home to the Toda tribes of the Nilgiris whose art consists of traditional garments spun from fibers and natural fruit and berry dyes sourced from the surrounding forests. With development, the tribes were forced out of their forest dwellings and were ‘rehabilitated’ in villages outside. However this drastic change in their life, threatened the very art that defined their identity and the means to the only livelihood they knew. Being a part of the local community here in the Nilgiris, we took it up to make sure this art form doesn’t die out like the ancient Toda lifestyle sadly has. We further their art today by sourcing all their products from their Community Center and encourage all our guests visiting us here in the Nilgiris to buy some artifact as a gesture of support towards the Toda lifestyle.

We support of the local village ‘tea shops’ along our routes and the use of only local gasoline sourced from Indian Oil Wells and distributed by Indian Gas Stations. We use the local tribal guides on our teks. Their dedication and knowledge with regards to the forests is commendable and we make sure we give back with some monetary help after every trek and also in kind by supplying them with trekking shoes or clothes that we know they could use.

As long serving members of the Nilgiri Wildlife & Environmental Association (a local affiliate of the World Wildlife Fund), we had actively campaigned to halt the process of timber logging or for that matter clearing of natural forests for any reason whatsoever. As an organisation we represented our case in the Supreme Court, India's Highest Judicial Body, and received a decree that placed a blanket ban on any form of logging in natural forests in the Nilgiri Hills.

We have procured land on which, as a family we currently have planted 350-saplings with a 99% success rate. In addition, we sponsor the trees on lands owned by the forest department where over these years they have afforested with over 100,000 saplings, in this case with a 97% success rate. Today we have seen a rise in the bird species that thrived in these rain-forested areas. Within our property itself we have seen an addition of close to twenty-five bird species. we actively encourage our guests to plant and own a tree or tree saplings of their choice.

As of date, our guests have planted over 125 tree saplings of which all have survived. We keep our guests involved in this experience by emailing them progress photos of their sapling/saplings.

By contributing regularly to a Blind Orphan Childrens Home in a nearby town, we attempt to give these children back a life affected by blindness. At this orphanage, these children are taught skills like basket weaving, tailoring, etc. in the hope that they may become self-sufficient in the future.

Reviews of History, culture & wildlife of India vacation

You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the vacations.

I am reborn! Simply the best vacation I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
Very enjoyable
It was OK
A bit disappointing really

Reviewed on 26 Apr 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Nagarhole National Park well managed , carefully done trips to see animals etc

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Read !!
Read !!!
Read !!!
If go without reading first you will be blind .Nothing will make sense . Good books on India are out there . Travel guides need to be digested before leaving .

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


No I do not feel that it did much OTHER than we employed local people , asked questions , tried to understand what we saw , tipped properly etc

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


I have told the vacation provider that they do a great job .

Reviewed on 23 Jun 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


The most exciting part was not on the original programme. We asked Rajat to give us somewhat more nature and less culture. He arranged for us to spend a day and two nights in a resort on the Kabini Lake, across from the Nagarhole National Park. On a boat safari at dusk, amidst myriad birds and beasts, we saw a male tiger emerging muddily from the river, slinking into the jungle. Next day at dawn our guide (the guides were all serious naturalists) was still more excited when a family of sloth bears crossed our path. The resort itself was wondrously luxurious, with excellent food and notably courteous staff. But an equally memorable part was our 3 days with Rajat's family in the Nilgiri Hills. We learned a great deal about how to cultivate and appreciate tea, and enjoyed some exceptionally lively conversations. The family are Jains, and the vegetarian cooking by cooking by Rajat's mother Renu offered repeated revelations. At a personal level, this stay was what we'll remember most fondly.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


In Mysore we had an excellent guide. With our interest in Tipu we had requested an additional visit to Tipu's Summer Palace at nearby Srirangapatnam, and this is not to be missed. Remember that elements in the itinerary can be modified at your request. Up to this point, five stars. However, in the latter part of our tour, we spent rather too high a proportion of the time on bumpy roads - two six-hour drives. If doing it again, we would take the whole 15 days and divide the car travel into smaller bits. Not Rajat's fault. We would also omit Goa - accommodation fine, beach horrid. Lastly, the end of March was often too hot for comfort, and we would advise an earlier slot.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Last year we toured Kerala in homestays and gave the vacation five stars; we like the personal contacts you get in a homestay. Towards the end of this vacation we felt more like regular tourists, and experienced some of the minus points of the industry. Not reborn - just replete with good memories.

Read the operator's response here:

Dear Susan & Robin,
It was a pleasure planning this vacation for you and was an even greater pleasure meeting the two of you and showcasing our lives, family and the part of the world we live in. We’re glad that you had a nice time on this vacation. With regards the region you visited, the emphasis was always going to be about the history and ancient architecture.

Unlike Kerala with it’s abundance of small and heritage family home stays, these parts of Karnataka that you visited are devoid of such experiences but bring a lot of ancient history and wonderful architecture to the balance. It was the reason why we made sure you come and experience our family home stay first to help you settle into your trip and gain a fresh perspective on India before you embarked on the rest of the experiences on the trip. Goa sadly has become more commercial than it ever was and unfortunately as a destination does harbour some of the minuses that commercialism can make of any service. But it was the logical end to your trip, geographically and hence unavoidable. But I’m glad that on the greater balance of things you had great, memorable experiences that will stay with you in the future.

Reviewed on 16 May 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


The two home stays were an amazing part of our trip. Friends of Orchha is a great social enterprise supporting local people. The food we ate at the home stays was delicious.
The palaces we visited were fabulous.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Take the plunge and travel on an overnight train with shared accommodation. It's a great experience.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes, definitely.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Excellent, we enjoyed it all.

Reviewed on 12 Mar 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Staying at the home of the Kumars, visiting Golden Temple at Amritsar and
WildFlower Hall.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Be aware of traveling time when going by road and do not try and do too much.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Outstanding.

Reviewed on 20 Jan 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Mysore and dewelokam

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Don't spend the night on a houseboat just the day

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


All brilliant. Only place I wouldn't recommend was Aranyakam

Reviewed on 19 Mar 2013 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


We enjoyed Nagarhole (The Bison) and Rainforest Retreat the most, but also very much the ecotourism day in the Vembanad Backwaters (canoe trip, coir rope making, etc.) and our home stay in Wayanad. Every part of our vacation was very interesting.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Be prepared with extra tip money at the large temple sites. We didn't realize at first that we should always bring extra money at each stop (e.g. you need to pay to leave your shoes at temple entrances, leave tips for blessings, etc.). Also, we noticed that other people brought school supplies, etc., for children; we didn't know to do that. Fortunately we had received a tipping guide from Rajat, and that allowed us generally to have the right amounts of money along with us each day. It is important for both men and women to dress quite conservatively in rural areas. It would have been better if I (older woman) had purchased some Indian clothing to wear (e.g. long shirt), but long pants and a short-sleeved shirt worked okay. Our trip was in late February to early March, and this worked well--it was before the end of the tourist season and not too hot. We were there during the harvest, and it was so interesting to see all of the harvesting and also the start of planting for the next season.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


The main benefit we saw was from the hiring of local guides and drivers, thus benefiting local people and economies. It was clear that our ecotourism day in the Vembanad Backwaters, our Wayanad home stay, and our stay at Rainforest Retreat benefited local people and supported conservation.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


This was the trip of a lifetime for us. We asked for a trip that would take us off the beaten track, give us a chance to meet local people and learn about local activities and customs, and give us a good introduction to the culture and history of India. This trip surpassed our goals in every way. We met many, many wonderful people on our trip and were able to talk with them about their lives and activities. Our drivers were extremely courteous, competent, and knowledgeable. Similarly our guides were excellent. Overall we had a fantastic vacation and feel we had a very good introduction to southern India.

Reviewed on 10 May 2013 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Udaipur!

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Stay in the same hotels, spend a little more time and go to Jaisalmer. Don't go in April as too hot.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Excellent. We had one hiccup in that the overnight train back to Delhi was delayed more than 6 hours and Andy only just caught his flight the next day after a lot of stress and a sleepless night. We should have not arranged the vacation this way as it is to be expected that trains are late in India. So we had bad advice in this respect. However, a minor point in the grand scheme of things.

Read the operator's response here:

Hello Karen,

Thank you for the time you've taken out to leave a review of your vacation with us. It was a pleasure planning this trip for you and I'm glad that the two of you had a nice time.
I just wanted to comment on the last rail journey that you took from Jodhpur into Delhi. At the beginning of the trip, a flight was considered back to Delhi. However given the limited days that you had and the experiences that needed to be covered, Jodhpur wouldn't have been possible if the domestic flight option was selected. It was only made possible because of the overnight train, that you ultimately ended up taking.

Yes, it was very unfortunate that the train ended up delayed like it was. But the reality of Indian trains today is that they run on time 98% of the time. There is that unfortunate window when something can go wrong. And in this case unfortunately 'murphy's law' kicked in. However at the planning stage we did leave a big buffer of time between the train's arrival into New Delhi and Andrew's flight out in the afternoon. Given the delay, you will remember that we stayed on to coordinate things both at the station and with the airline to ensure that Andrew made his flight back home on time and as scheduled.

So I guess all's well that ends well and some experiences like this need to be attributed to the India travel experience!

Reviewed on 30 Mar 2012 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


The whole vacation was a highlight, it really was. Our 3 night stay at the Aakriti homestay with Rajat, Mughda and Renu was really memorable. Such a lovely welcoming family, their hospitality and warmth is out of this world, we really felt like members of the family. The family are educated, open people who really made us feel extremely welcome. Renus' cooking is absolutely delicious she uses all locally-sourced fresh ingredients, she makes her own bread, chutneys, jams, you name it she does it, and it is all incredible. Every day we ate the most amazing food in a lovely family atmosphere. We had good company, lively interesting discussions every evening around the dinner table. This homestay experience really allowed us some insight into everyday life which would normally be very difficult for us to experience. We learned so much about Indian culture, their religion, we tried to get an understanding of their complex spiritual culture, Rajat, Mughda and Renu never tired of answering our endless questions. The homestay is situated in The Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu a beautiful area, the tea plantations are stunning such a relaxing place and we saw a Malabar squirrel.

The houseboat trip was also a highlight, amazing and relaxing, it was brilliant to just watch the world go by, seeing life on the river banks. The stunning scenery, the friendly locals, the children waving as we sailed by. The excellent boat crew, the superb freshly prepared food by the cook this deserves a special mention it was excellent. I do not know how he managed to prepare a six course meal on just two gas rings. Buying fresh fish and tiger prawns from the fishermen for our evening meal it was total luxury. The amazing birdlife and watching the sun set over the waterways with a nice cold Kingfisher beer.

The ayurvedic massage at the heritage hotel Serenity was amazing one of the best massages I have ever had.


2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Let Rajat know exactly what you want to do and see, trust him he will go out of his way to accommodate your wishes. Bring binoculars there are so many beautiful birds to see. Take pens with you, that was the number one thing the local children asked for. The locals are warm and friendly, in the towns when shopping, the shop keepers do try and lure you into their shops. If you do not want to, just be firm and friendly they really do not hassle you, they are good natured and leave you to go on your way. Go with a sense of adventure, keep an open mind and just soak up the experience.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes, definitely, we used a local tour company and the accommodations which we stayed in were locally owned and employed local people. We ate in local restaurants bought food and gifts in local shops, we used local guides and drivers. Rajat and his family are very conscious about sustainability and green issues they recycle and are replanting the local forest trees on their own land. They are truly passionate about what they do.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Outstanding. We got in touch with this operator via Responsible Travel. We booked a 14 day tailor made vacation with them because we wanted a vacation organised by people with local knowledge. We wanted a more unique vacation experience, an insight into India, its people and culture and we were not disappointed. From the first contact with Rajat, we experienced a very professional, personal service, we could not have wished for a better travel advisor. Rajat helped and advised us, refining our itinerary and keeping an eye on the costs. He included interesting places and cultural activities all with very good guides. The guide who accompanied us on the tour of Cochin was excellent. The attention to detail in the organisation of our vacation was immaculate. The hotels which were selected were very good. Safe, clean transport was provided, our driver Ragesh (I hope I have spelt it correctly) was very good; he was patient, calm, always smiling, gentle and respectful person. He was a professional driver always punctual, we felt safe and totally comfortable with him during the whole trip. His English was not perfect but we all managed excellently throughout the trip. The whole itinerary was perfect, well balanced between independent and organised activities. The people who make up this operator are really dedicated and full of passion for what they do. A superb vacation with a very well run company. I would highly recommend booking with them, you will not be disappointed. We had an unforgettable vacation. Thank you Rajat.

Reviewed on 18 Nov 2012 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


The whole vacation was wonderfully put together and the people that we met made the vacation particularly memorable. Our visit to the Nilgiri Hills, Tamil Nadu, was one of the most memorable parts of our trip. The scenery was spectacular and we were extremely well looked after.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


As long as you tell Rajat what you like from a vacation he will find the perfect combination for you. Definitely visit some of the homestays, it gives you a real insight into Indian culture.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


It definitely benefitted the local people. It was great to not stay in the big hotels and instead visit small homestays and support the local communities.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Excellent. Well organised and just what we were looking for. We were extremely well looked after and would highly recommend Rajat if visiting India.

Reviewed on 28 Nov 2010 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


There were several highlights. The Golden Temple at Amritsar, Jairpur's Amber Fort & Palace, the backwaters of Kerala and our homestay in the Nilgiri Hills.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Not to worry about a thing, as it was organised exactly as we wanted. Rajat & the tour company ensured we were met, guided, and looked after at every aspect of our trip.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Yes. We specifically asked for accommodation that was NOT international 4/5 star hotels. We stayed at interesting 'Heritage' properties (locally owned) and used local guides/drivers. Our organisers were very keen on sustainability and green issues (e.g. some vehicles we used were powered by bio fuels, grown locally). Also, a lot of our meals were from local produce.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


We don't like the 'I am reborn' statement, but we feel we must award the highest mark, as we can't think of any way the vacation could have been bettered. We will certainly recommend this tour operator to everyone we know who are interested in visiting India.

Reviewed on 03 Feb 2008 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


At the end of a long, hot day, exploring the lost capital of Hampi and its many temples and royal buildings. As the sun began to set the State Director of Tourism turned up with his family, and brought with him an expert on playing the musical pillars of the dancing hall of the Vittala temple. Our guide was ecstatic to hear them played again, as this had been forbidden for over a year. A truly magical chance moment for us all.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


For women, I would point out that Indian ladies, of whatever religious persuasion, or none, do not generally show anything of their legs, or their shoulders (midriffs are optional!).

When touring round the temples, particularly, many of which are active religious centres, I felt more comfortable in long skirts or trousers. For men, shorts in town are similarly a bit difficult (especially in hot weather) but bare legs would usually denote a lower caste person so bear it in mind. Take a universal sink plug - they were a rarity. Take travel wash, because although washing services are universal and cheap, one is rarely in one place long enough to employ them, and we were reliably informed that in any case the dhobi wallah will smash your buttons on the rock!

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Yes - within the constraints of a touring vacation, with limited local infrastructure. The organisers were conscious of trying to meet these objectives; they always chose local guides rather than those offered by the big tour companies whose English may have been easier to understand, but who certainly would not have had the in depth knowledge of those who guided us. Rajat's family are brilliant recyclers and are actively replanting the local forest trees on their own land.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


This was a wonderful introduction to India. Out two young guides, Rajat and his brother-in-law Lalith, were conscientious, sensitive to western prejudices and expectations, informative, knowledgeable, tireless, good humoured - and always delightful company. Rajat had worked out a well-balanced tour, with temples, nature, history, culture, religion and politics in almost equal measure. One felt one could ask him about anything that puzzled us, and would get a reasoned answer explaining all. A week after saying goodbye we are still mulling over all we have seen and done.

Reviewed on 20 Oct 2007 by

History, culture & wildlife of India

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


The wide range of experiences - wildlife, nature, culture, shopping and personal service we received, especially being made so welcome by the whole family.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Take advantage of your hosts' willingness to customise/personalise your vacation. Engage with Rajat and Lalith before you set off and do some research before you go.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


We hope so. We even did our bit by planting and adopting a native tree.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Fantastic. Not a single day wasted. Can't wait to go back again!

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