16 independent reviews for History, culture & wildlife of India vacation

Reviews for History, culture & wildlife of India vacation

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review 16 Aug 2019

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

Seeing tigers. Local people. Untouristy parts of India. The care and diligence of our tour operator and Rajat Kumar. Special mention should be made to Rajat and his team, our guide Manju and the manager at the ground company, the medical help at Ranjit’s Svaasa in Amritsar as well our guide Gagan. Gagan not only a help in Amritsar but also in Delhi where he went out his way to show us the 2 step wells.

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

Take note of advice given on tipping. Get small denomination Rupees for tipping from ATMs. Be aware of levels of walks, ours in Shimla ‘Pen to Brush’ was very strenuous even for 2 fit walkers, 43deg. terrain not made clear in leaflet.

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

Our tour operator was in India and therefore gave good advice and helped considerably when issues arose with local knowledge and support. Small local hotels Red Earth and Pench Tree House employed local people in all aspects of hospitality and as guides in the reserves. The 2 reserves were Tadoba and Pench who employed local trained guides to not only find tigers but other fantastic animals. The Tree House had a policy of reducing single use plastic and gave free aluminium bottles to fill up at hotel coolers. Shimla had banned plastic bags.

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

Excellent overall. On planning Rajat was excellent at adapting and advising to suit what we wanted in our itinerary going out to visit the new hotel on our itinerary. In addition he had to deal with the collapse of Jet Air, keeping us informed and giving us options to keep on track. In Mumbai, our new airline Kuwait, left our luggage behind in Kuwait, again Rajat’s team monitored this problem and after with the help of the hotel manager at Red Earth we received the luggage on the 3rd day. As this was our first time using a local tour company we were very impressed.

review 25 Nov 2018

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

From start to finish our bespoke trip ran like clockwork. It’s hard to work out the most memorable part as there were so many,Kerala backwaters on a traditional canoe, a traditional houseboat, two days hiking in the Westarn Ghats, plantations of tea, coffee, cardamom and more, ancient temples, maharajah’s places, eerily deserted mansions of Chettinad, small enterprises, ex colonial grandeur, crumbling poverty, varied local cuisine and the kindest friendliest people. Our storytelling guides brought places to life in a way that we would otherwise have walked by, our driver kept calm in the busiest of streets, our trekking guide oozed passion for the mountains and rare wildlife and hotel staff were eager that we should try another local delicacy. For sheer excitement our number one was unexpectedly seeing wild elephants grazing in the dappled sunlight of a Munnar forest. Our second choice as mountain lovers would be the trekking, shy wildlife, not another person in sight, varied terrain and breath taking views from the top.

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

The operator took great care to build the trip around the things we wanted to do, so think carefully and do your research to get the trip that you want. Though not a lover of Crocs they would have been a better alternative to sandals, then sandy grit doesn’t rub your feet sore and if it rains you are a little higher of the ground. If you are wondering whether you really need boots for the trekking in the Western Ghats...yes you do.

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

The trip was designed around local initiatives and environmentally aware projects culminating in a relaxing stay in an eco lodge with an organic farm for vegetables and milk, solar power and water conservation/ filtration.

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

We had a wonderful vacation, varied, exciting with delicious food and passionate guides. It far surpassed our expectations and we must thank Rajat for constructing a vacation of a lifetime.

review 26 Aug 2018

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

The Kerala boat trip and both the land and boat safaris in Karnataka.

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

Traveling from one place to the next can be tiring and time consuming, as the roads are not always good

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

It benefited local people as all business that were used were local.

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

It was a very good vacation, people were welcoming, helpful and friendly. Rajat was very efficient and helpful.

review 23 Aug 2018

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

The contrast between the the Nilgiris and the lowlands of southern India. The food almost everywhere was an order of magnitude better than we've had anywhere else. Life in the towns, villages and streets was fascinating. Our home stays were all superb.

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

Plan well ahead and decide on the things you 'must do' and the things you'd 'like to do'. There is so much to see, a list of priorities is essential. In fact, in choosing our itinerary, we changed our minds half a dozen times and, each time, Rajat accommodated our changes without any problems at all.

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

The trip involved conservation through contributions to wildlife parks, the use of local guides and drivers. Local home stays helped small rural businesses.

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

Excellent. We got exactly what we wanted! I hesitate to call it a 2-week vacation in southern India. It was an immersive, fulfilling and rewarding travel experience which we'd happily do again.

review 6 Feb 2018

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

Probably the most exciting thing was seeing two tigers (on separate visits - one on the boat safari and one on a land safari) in Nagarhole National Park - astonishing. But equally memorable was the temple tour in Madurai - it felt a privilege to visit when so many pilgrims were also worshipping at the temple.

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

Try to avoid the large, noisy buses in Nagarhole National Park (they are truly dreadful) - and arrange a tour by jeep. And ask if a guide will be accompanying you - as we didn't get one on any of our safaris. We can highly recommend our tour operator - their organisation and recommendations were all excellent - and their homestay in the hills above Ooty was also a highlight of the whole trip.

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

I hope so - we tried to eat at local restaurants and we used a lot of local guides (who were all excellent - particularly the city `story telling` tours and food tours) - and visited local workshops.

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

Absolutely excellent - and we hope to return. We just wish we could have spend twice as long at every destination.

review 5 Dec 2016

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

My stay at the Wild Mahseer in Assam was very special. Great hospitality, beautiful lodgings and interesting environmental projects. In Shillong I had an excellent guide and driver who made the trip interesting and gave me an insight into the local area. They were both very helpful and attentive. I was sorry I didn't have enough time to trek out to see the root bridges in Meghalaya or visit the Kaziranga National Park in Assam.

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

Bring warm clothing if going to Shillong. At night it's cold in November.

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.

review 26 Apr 2016

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 .

review 23 Jun 2014

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.

review 16 May 2014

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.

review 12 Mar 2014

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.

review 20 Jan 2014

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

review 19 Mar 2013

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.

review 10 May 2013

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!

review 30 Mar 2012

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.

review 18 Nov 2012

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.

review 28 Nov 2010

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.

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