This tour is designed to take us to some of F W Champion’s favorite photographic haunts, visiting some of the Forest Rest Houses where he and his wife stayed in the 1920s and 30s, walking along some of the beautiful trails that they loved so much, looking out across the valleys towards the great Himalayan peaks of Trishul and Nanda Devi.

Frederick W Champion OBE IFS campaigned vigorously for the protection of tigers and other wildlife in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. FWC was also the pioneer of tripwire photography in India, a system that is now known as camera-trapping and is one of the key tools in the struggle to protect India’s priceless wildlife heritage today. His astonishing images, obtained using primitive and cumbersome glass-plate cameras, graced the front covers and interior pages of publications such as the Illustrated London News, Country Life, The Field, and Indian State Railways Magazine.

FW Champion travelled to India in 1913 and served initially in the Police Department in East Bengal. He was commissioned into the Indian Army Reserve of Officers (Cavalry branch) as a second lieutenant in 1916 and saw service with the 31st Lancers before being appointed wing officer with the Kurram Militia on 8 March 1917, a Frontier Corps unit based on the North- west Frontier of India, where he was mentioned in dispatches. After returning from the war, he was lucky enough to obtain a scholarship to study Forestry at Oxford University, after which he joined the Imperial Forestry Service in the United Provinces of India and became Deputy Conservator of Forests. He remained in India until 1947, and is now regarded as one of the country’s finest conservationists.

Itinerary:- Delhi – Dehra Dun – Rajaji – Corbett – Vanghat – Nainital – Delhi

Number of nights:-  11 nights and 12 days

Fixed departure:  11th February 2024 to 22nd of February 2024

Tailor-made itinerary: We will be happy to tailormake this itinerary as per your best suited time, number of days you have or species that you have in mind. Do drop us an email.

Detailed Itinerary

Day 01: Arrive in Delhi

Arrival at Delhi. Our representative will meet you at the airport and will accompany you to your hotel. The remainder of the day is at leisure after a long-haul flight. Depending on your flight timings and your inclination to explore, we can organize some city sightseeing or bird watching during the day. James Champion, your tour leader, will meet you at your hotel this evening over drinks and dinner so everyone can get to know each other and talk over our plans for the tour.

Overnight at Delhi.

Day 02: Delhi to Dehra Dun

Our first destination will be Dehra Dun, a town in the Himalayan foothills that has strong Champion links. Dehra Dun used to be a small cantonment town, but it has now become the capital of the state of Uttarakhand. The journey from Delhi to Dehra Dun is covered by road and takes about 4.5 hours.

The main reason why we begin our journey here is to visit the magnificent Forest Research Institute (FRI). This institution made a humble beginning as a Forest School established in 1878, and moved into its current splendid quarters in 1929. James’s great uncle, Sir Harry Champion CIE IFS, was Director of Silviculture here in the 1930’s. The campus is a haven for wildlife, and indeed its botanical garden was laid out by the husband of James’s great aunt Dora Champion, RA Parker IFS.

Overnight in Dehra Dun (B, L, D).

Day 03:- Dehra Dun and Asan Barrage

After an early breakfast, we will visit the FRI campus, which hosts a wide range of bird species, as well as some splendid trees and blocks of forest planted by HG Champion. After exploring this wonderful site, we will depart for the Asan Barrage, an outstanding wildlife habitat in the Uttarakhand – Himachal Pradesh border region, in the Doon Valley. In 2020, this remarkable spot was declared as Uttarakhand’s first Ramsar site. The Bird Sanctuary was established in 1967 as a manmade wetland where the rivers Yamuna and Asan converge. This area attracts impressive numbers of wintering birds, including some threatened and endangered species.

Much of today will be spent birding in and around the wetlands.

Overnight in Dehra Dun (B, L, D).

Day 04: Dehra Dun to Rajaji National Park

This morning, after breakfast, we will check-out and will make our way to Rajaji National Park, a splendid wildlife habitat that lies in the Shivalik Hills, close to the foothills of the Himalayas. Rajaji National Park was named after C. Rajagopalachari (Rajaji), a prominent leader of India’s freedom struggle, the second and last Governor-General of independent India and one of the first recipients of India’s highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna, in 1954.

The Shivaliks, where FW Champion served with distinction, contained the shooting blocks of the top government officials diuring the British period. The Viceroys, right up until Mountbatten, took their shikar (hunting) very seriously. But Rajaji, like Champion, was disapproving of hunts. In 1948, a sanctuary was carved out of the shooting blocks in the Shivaliks. Champion had been concerned about the depletion of tigers by sport-hunting. His response was sometimes to issue permits for shooting blocks where there were likely to be no tigers for hunters to shoot. The law now stepped in. Rajaji, as the sanctuary was then named, is now a vastly expanded tiger reserve, a safe haven for fauna as much as for flora.

The journey to our lodge in Rajaji should take about 1.5hrs by road. The park’s periphery begins as soon as one leaves the outskirts of Dehra Dun. Most who visit Rajaji have their base close to Haridwar and explore the tourist zones close to this holy town, but in order to offer a more exclusive experience, we plan to use the ultimate travelling camp property – Aalia Jungle Bandarjudh. It is located on a farm at the edge of the park.

After lunch we will take our first safari into Rajaji Tiger Reserve. We will venture into the Mohund zone – a part of the park not visited by most tourists, but the wildlife viewing here is usually outstanding.

Overnight at Rajaji National Park  (B, L, D).

Day 05:- Rajaji National Park

Our exploration of Rajaji National Park continues, with two safaris planned for today as well

– one in the morning and the other in the late afternoon.

Overnight at Rajaji National Park (B, L, D)

Day 06: Rajaji National Park – Corbett Tiger Reserve

This morning, we will check-out of the hotel and will make our way to Corbett Tiger Reserve. The journey to Corbett will take about 5hrs to cover the 225kms to our lodge on the southern periphery of the park, Jim’s Jungle Retreat.

Corbett Tiger Reserve needs no introduction. It was the first national park in Asia; it has an amazing history linked to how conservation began in this region and James will speak about how naturalists including FW Champion, Jim Corbett & EA Smythies and Sir Malcolm Hailey, then Governor of UP, each played a role in getting this magnificent area its protected status. We will learn how the landscape has evolved and what makes this forest so special amongst all other wonderful parks of India.

Corbett offers a huge diversity of wildlife, largely due to the varied landscapes that can be found here. It is perhaps the most diverse region for birds in the country, with 600 of the country’s 1250 species having been recorded here.

We begin our exploration of this forest in the evening on a nature walk in the buffer forest near our lodge, with James showcasing all that we have mentioned above.

Overnight at Corbett (B, L, D).

Day 07:- Corbett Tiger Reserve

We have planned 2 game drives in open jeeps into Corbett Tiger Reserve today. The park is currently divided into different tourist zones. The ones closest to the lodge are Jhirna and Dhela. Dhela is largely a grassland and offers a chance to see a variety of herbivores, birds and the Jungle-Cat along with the Golden Jackal. Of course, tigers can be seen in all tourist zones, but there is no guarantee of sightings.

Overnight at Corbett (B, L, D).

Day 08: Corbett to Vanghat

We begin our day with a morning safari to explore another zone, Bijrani. Each zone highlights a different landscape. Breakfast will be at the lodge on our return. After a quick wash and change, we check-out and make our way to the northern periphery of the park, where the Ramganga River – the lifeline of this park – enters the tiger reserve. Depending local information, we may stop for birding enroute to seek-out the rare Ibisbill or other rare species.

Our destination is a basic, yet wonderful lodge called Vanghat, which lies in the forested areas on the park periphery. The purpose of including this magical spot in our program is to experience how these forests were enjoyed and explored a century ago. Uniquely, we are allowed to explore the jungles on foot here– in the same way as they were explored by FW Champion and his family. Getting to the lodge is an adventure in itself.

We will be dropped off at Marchula, on the banks of the Ramganga River, by our vehicles. Here we will meet the Vanghat team and begin our adventure on foot.

We will walk over the Ramganga suspension bridge and then through the sleepy village of Baluli. The riverine forest here is an excellent introduction to the valley, and the walk provides a uniquely satisfying way of reaching the Lodge. At the end of this trail, a bamboo raft ferries us across to remote Vanghat.

This remarkable property provides opportunities to watch mahseer and kalaba fish in the crystal-clear waters of the Ramganga, while common birdlife here includes the delightful White-capped and Plumbeous Water Redstarts, and even Wallcreepers are frequent visitors. The loud, shrill calls of the Lesser and Pallas’s Fish Eagles greet visitors to this densely wooded wildlife valley. The Ramganga valley boasts over 50 species of birds of prey.

Before our trek, w e w i l l be briefed by our trekking forest guide on various aspects of safety and precautions.

Evening trek – Champion’s trail – 3km. Gradient – Gentle.

This short but wholesome trail covers three distinct habitats, namely broad-leafed moist forest, grasslands, and riverine forest. It is a wonderful trail to acclimatize oneself to the forests of Vanghat. Pugmarks of Tiger and Leopards are regularly seen, and signs of Elephant, Sambhar & Barking Deer testify to the wildlife richness of the valley.

Evening by campfire, followed by dinner.

Overnight at Vanghat (B, L, D).

Day 09: Corbett Tiger Reserve – Nainital

This morning, we can choose to either take a walk along the Ramganga or enjoy a longer sleep. After breakfast, we make our way back across the Baluli suspension bridge and drive to our final destination – the beautifully situated hill station of Nainital. Although the distance to Nainital is only around 100kms, the hilly drive will take us about 3 hours. On the way, we will stop at Kaladhungi, where will visit Jim Corbett’s former home, which is now a museum detailing the extraordinary contribution that Corbett made to the local community. Jim built a wall around this entire village to protect the locals and their livestock from marauding wild animals, and he is still held in high esteem among the inhabitants of this village.

From Kaladhungi, we wend our way ever upward until we reach the delightful lakeside town of Nainital, the former summer home of the government of the United Provinces. Many memories of the British period survive here, including the Church of St John’s in the Wilderness, the former Secretariat Building, and Gurney House, Jim Corbett’s mountain home.

Overnight at Nainital (B, L, D).

Day 10: Nainital

FW Champion and his wife would spend time in Nainital between their tours of inspection through the forests, and they were keen members of the Naini Tal Yacht Club (NTYC), whose headquarters, the Boathouse Club, has graced the shore of the lake since 1890. Miraculously, the original yachts that the Champions and others sailed in the early 20th century are still here and still used. We will admire these remarkable vessels, especially Number 7, Stella, which was the Champions’ favorite.

The day will be spent looking around the Nainital area, birding as we go. Depending on the weather conditions, we will visit the aptly named Snow View, from where a splendid panorama of the Himalayan snows stretches all along the northern horizon, with views of iconic peaks all the way from Himachal Pradesh in the west to Nepal in the east.

Overnight in Nainital.

Day 11: Nainital to Delhi

After breakfast we will check-out and will transfer by road to the railhead at Kathgodam, just as the Champions did nearly 100 years ago, and transfer to a train for the journey back to Delhi. The journey should take us between 5 and 7hrs.

Arrive in Delhi. Dinner is organized close to the airport. After dinner transfer to airport to catch your international flight back home, or overnight in Delhi, depending on flight times.

Please note: this and all the tours advertised on this website are organised and run by Rural Traveller. All participants must purchase adequate travel insurance to cover cancellation, medical treatment and possible repatriation. 

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