Big Cats and Small Kingdoms

Big Cats and Small Kingdoms is a 15 day tour of  Rajasthan and Gujarat.

India has extremely rich and varied wildlife. On this remarkable tour we set out on adventure to observe three large iconic cats.

We search for tigers in Ranthambore National Park, leopards in the remote areas of southern Rajasthan and the only remaining lions outside of Africa in Gir National Park, Gujarat.

India Big Cats and Small Kingdoms is perfect for anyone with an interest in viewing these magnificent creatures in their natural environment.



However, this tour is not all about wildlife.

We also get a fascinating insight into the customs of tribal rural village life and climb up the Jain temples in Palitana. Add to this the dramatic marshland of Kutch, home to the Indian Wild Ass.

The India Big Cats and Small Kingdoms tour boasts a great combination of culture, history and wildlife and is not to be missed.

Tour ratings.

  • Fitness
  • Off the beaten track
  • Culture 
  • History 
  • Wildlife 

Tour pace


Tour style


Relaxed Pace

Relaxed tours are easy paced with plenty of leisure time built in. The tour will in all probability still be off the beaten track, with the occasional early start and there may still be occasional long drives. In general on a relaxed pace tour you can enjoy easy-going activities and experiences with opportunities to absorb the sights and immerse yourself in the local surroundings.

Moderate Pace

Moderate pace tours are ideal if you want a tour experience that combines activities and experiences with some time to relax. Typically you will be active and busy for part of the day but then also have time to rest and recharge your batteries. In general on a moderate paced tour there may be some long journeys involved but the tour is not an expedition or a road trip. On a moderate paced tour it will be necessary to have some early starts.

Busy Pace

A busy paced tour means that you can expect to be doing, seeing or experiencing something new almost every day, and moving on from place to place to pack in as much as possible. There may be early starts, long journeys and tiring days along the way, but you’ll return home feeling you’ve really experienced as much as you possibly could.

Pioneer Class Tours

On our Pioneer tours, you will be amongst an elite group of intrepid travellers and some of the first to explore a country that few have been privileged enough to discover. Of course, exploring such areas of the world will come with its challenges; it may mean several nights camping, long journeys by 4WD and the need to maintain a degree of flexibility for when carefully laid plans change. These are challenging tours in countries and areas that may have poor infrastructure, high levels of poverty and illiteracy. This can translate in to low standards in hotels, bad roads and poor driving standards among other issues. We try and smooth out as much of these issues as we can but you should be prepared to experience the bad with the good.

Traveller Class Tours

Our Traveller itineraries are at the core of our programme. These journeys are designed for travellers who still want to discover a land away from the tourist crowds but expect minimum standards. Accommodation will be primarily hotel based, although you could still find yourself camping, or the guest of a local family. Depending on the destination and itinerary, you’ll likely be travelling in a private vehicle, with occasional use of public transport. This is adventure travel with some of the rough edges smoothed out.


Start the India Big Cats and Small Kingdoms tour when you arrive in Delhi, the capital of India, where you’ll be met and driven to hotel accommodation. Those arriving in good time may be able to take an afternoon heritage walk exploring the fragrant spice bazaar and chaotic streets of Old Delhi, at the end of the day viewing the city at sunset from a rooftop vantage point. Overnight at Florence Inn Hotel or similar. No meals included.

 (Approximate journey time: five hours)

This morning is free to independently explore some of the bazaars in the immediate vicinity of the hotel. After lunch we head to the station and board the air-conditioned Janshatabdi Express. The journey offers excellent views of the Rajasthan countryside en route to Sawai Madhopur, your base for visiting Ranthambore National Park. On arrival transfer to hotel accommodation. Overnight at The Ranthambore Bagh / Om Rudrapriya or similar. (BLD)

Today take a morning and afternoon game drive by shared jeep and hope to spot the majestic Bengal Tiger. These are the ultimate Indian big cats. The varied landscapes within the park are attractive and the wildlife safari by purpose built safari vehicles is an enjoyable experience even if wildlife proves elusive. Morning safaris usually start at around 06:00, and afternoon safaris at around 14:00, and usually last for 3 to 4 hours, though timings vary according to the season. Overnight at Om Rudrapriya  or similar. (BLD)

(Approximate journey time: seven to eight hours)

Ranthambore’s landscape is more open than most Indian parks, increasing the chances of seeing tigers and other wildlife during game drives by purpose-built safari vehicles. Royal Bengal tigers are the headline species here and guides will do their best to search them out. However, the park’s varied landscapes create habitats for a multitude of wildlife and time is also spent appreciating the intricacies of the broader ecosystem. Game drives start at around 6:00am and 2:00pm, usually lasting three to four hours according to the season. Overnight at Pal Haveli or similar. (BL)

(Approximate driving time: two-and-a-half-hours)

This morning we visit the impressive and ultimately invincible 15th century Mehrangarh Fort, a quite astonishing feat of architecture which looms over the city’s famously blue dwellings. From this magnificent vantage point, walk back down to the town through a labyrinth of narrow streets, gaining a real feel for the city.  After lunch, drive to the picturesque hills of the Aravalli Range in south west Rajasthan, bordering the great Thar Desert. The landscape here combines hills, sand dunes and ravines and is relatively unexplored by commercial tourism. Characterful accommodation is provided at a Rajput country estate whose ‘castle’ has been converted into a striking heritage hotel. Overnight at Ravla Bhenswara, or similar. (BLD)

Today is dedicated to the fascinating region around Bhenswara, home to some of India’s more pastoral tribes. Jeep safaris to rural villages allow glimpses into the lifestyle of tribal people who live in harmony with nature. Villagers are extremely welcoming, especially the children who will tag along with visitors, pied-piper fashion. The location also is rich in wildlife and sightings may include wild boar, antelopes, langur monkeys and even the nesting sites of Indian vultures. Elsewhere, a quieter rock-strewn region provides an ideal habitat for leopard, and the village host at Bhenswara is a keen tracker…  As the sun sets, we’ll stop at a suitable viewpoint to soak up the tranquil surroundings while enjoying some Masala Chai and biscuits. Later, as darkness falls, we’ll head out on a night drive, attempting to glimpse notoriously elusive leopards. Sightings are rare, but that doesn’t dampen the excitement and anticipation… Overnight at Ravla Bhenswara, or similar. (BLD)

(Approximate driving time: three to four hours)

This morning we drive from Bhenswara to the former hill station of Mount Abu. The last hour of the journey is a twisty scenic climb into the mountains. On arrival we visit the magnificent Dilwara Temples, one of the finest examples of Jain architecture in India. After lunch we explore the small but picturesque Mount Abu Wildlife Sanctuary. Overhead birdlife is varied, and there’s a chance to see red-cheeked bulbuls, while elsewhere among the undergrowth crocodiles are a possible sighting. After watching the sunset from this magnificent viewpoint, we drive to our hotel accommodation. Overnight at Connaught House or similar. (BLD)

Please note: No food or drink or cameras are allowed in the Jain temple. Shorts are also not permitted, and shoes must be removed.  

(Approximate driving time: four to five hours)

Over the border into Gujarat lies Little Rann of Kutch, a vast expanse of flat wilderness seasonally flooded by the monsoon that dries into huge expanses of salt flats and desiccated low grassland. This apparently arid wilderness is also the last refuge in India of the Asiatic wild ass, an elegant, toffee and cream coloured member of the horse family. Elsewhere, birdlife is extensive with over 300 recorded species. Accommodation here is a safari-style camp with private cottages, a few minutes’ drive from the reserve at Dasada. The small village of farmers, nomadic cattle herders and artisans makes a perfect base from which to explore Little Rann of Kutch.  After some relaxation time, we’ll visit communities in nearby villages where women are experts in embroidery using herringbone stitches interspersed with small mirrors, and occasional chain stitches creating peacock motifs. Overnight at Rann Riders, or similar. (BLD)

Wildlife rises early, as such at dawn we’ll take a first safari drive into the wetland area of Little Rann of Kutch. The range of avian species is immense and grows further over the winter period to include desert wheatears, greater and lesser flamingos, stints, plovers, stilts, godwits, steppe eagles, Dalmatian pelicans, storks, cranes – the list seems endless. Choose to have a picnic breakfast or eat later at the hotel. After lunch and some time to relax, take an afternoon safari in search of the indigenous and rare Asiatic wild ass. The plains also provide a haven for the endangered Indian wolf, desert cats and striped hyenas. In late afternoon light the landscape is remarkable and would not be out of place in a Star Wars film. If time allows, we see how local people pan for salt before driving back to the hotel, along the way perhaps spotting the occasional nightjar by the road. Overnight at Rann Riders, or similar. (BLD)

(Approximate driving time: five to six hours)

This morning we depart early and drive to Gondal. En route we stop at Junagadh, a sizeable town where atmospheric narrow streets characterise its historically wealthy old quarter. It’s also notable for the nearby ruins of Uparkot Fort dating from 300 BC. We take tuk-tuks to reach the walled citadel, heading through a tunnelled passage and out onto wooded hillside. From an elevated position on the fort’s ramparts there are fine views over the town and to distant forest beyond. Black kites and spotted eagles soar on thermals rising before the temple-dotted mountains. If time allows we’ll visit nearby Buddhist cave temples, afterwards walking down into the town’s old quarter to meet our transport.  Later we visit Gondal and its 18th century Naulakha Palace where the private museum has some interesting silver artefacts. Accommodation here offers a tantalising glimpse into a lost royal lifestyle as we stay in a wing of the maharaja’s palace, now a heritage hotel. Overnight at Orchard Palace, or similar. (BL)

Please note: Steps up to the ramparts of Uparkot Fort do not have hand railings and require those entering to stoop under a low entrance.

(Approximate driving time: two-and-a-half-hours)

After breakfast we have explore the hotel’s ‘Royal Garages’, home to vintage cars once belonging to the Maharaja, said to be the greatest collection in the whole of Asia. Afterwards we continue by road to Gir Forest National Park. On arrival there’s time to relax until mid-afternoon when we embark on a game drive in search of the park’s key species, Asiatic lion. At the park gate there’s a well-presented interpretation centre, providing an overview of the park’s flora and fauna. Overnight Gir Birding Lodge. (BLD)

Please note: Make sure to take drinking water on the safari, particularly in the afternoon when temperatures are higher.

(Approximate driving time: four to five hours)

Those wishing to make an early foray into the park in search of wildlife may take a 6:00am game drive, returning to the hotel around 9:30am. Alternatively, relax among the hotel’s mango and lemon groves, take in the views from the roof-top terraces or your veranda, or ventures down to the rustic bird-hide. Later, we’ll check-out and drive to Palitana. Overnight at Vijay Vilas Palace or similar. (B)

Palitana’s remarkable mountain has 863 temples, and the greater complex almost 3,000, making it the world’s largest collection of religious architecture. It’s the duty of every adherent to the Jain faith to ascend the mountain at least once in their lifetime. At around 6:00am, avoiding the heat of the day, we aim to ascend the 3,800 steps leading to the top of the hill. As we climb it’s likely we’ll see many white-clad pilgrims making the same journey. At the summit the main temple will be quietly consumed by those making devotional acts, adding a compelling sense of privilege to our visit. Outside, the view is a breath-taking panorama over the Gulf of Cambay and the countryside below, a memorable sight for pilgrims and travellers alike. There’s plenty of time to appreciate the temples before descending to the town. Overnight at Vijay Vilas Palace, or similar. (B)

Please note: This excursion should not be undertaken by anyone with a serious pre-existing medical condition. The climb is not steep but does entail an ascent of around 500 metres. Porters are available to carry people to the temples on a dolli (swing chair). They will of course charge for the service. Please ensure you take a day pack with plenty of water. Cameras are strictly prohibited from the beginning of the steps. Please also ensure you dress respectfully – no shorts, short skirts, uncovered shoulders etc…

(Approximate driving time: two-and-a-half-hours)

After breakfast we traverse extensive plains that eventually give way to thorny scrub and the protected area of Velavadar National Park. On arrival there’s time to relax before embarking on a late afternoon safari though the park.  Possible wildlife highlights include blackbuck antelope and endangered Indian wolf. Birdlife is rich and varied with raptors (birds of prey) being well represented. Overnight Blackbuck Lodge. (BLD)

(Approximate driving time: three hours)

The India Big Cats and Small Kingdoms tour ends today. However, an early-morning drive into the park is available for those keen to catch wildlife at its most active, leaving around 6:00am and returning close to 9:30am. It’s also possible to simply relax and enjoy the lodge’s immediate surroundings. Later, we’ll depart by road for Ahmedabad and head to the airport for our flight to Delhi. Overnight at Florence Inn Hotel or similar. (BL)

Today, at a suitable time, you will be taken to the airport for you flight home.

Dates & Price.

Tour Notes

This India Big Cats group tour operates subject to a minimum group size of 3 travellers.

Single Supplement from £650.

To join the India Big Cats tour, return flights into Delhi and return from Ahmedabad start from £500 from London. Please contact us for a quotation

Mapped itinerary.

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Download the full tour dossier for this trip here.

India - Big Cats and Small Kingdoms Map

For expert advice get in touch now with our passionate,
well-travelled team.

+44(0) 191 296 2674 from THE UK
1-800-614-2967 from THE US & CANADA
1-300-956-415 from AUSTRALIA

Tour inclusions.

  • Arrival and departure transfers
  • Overland transport in private vehicle
  • Train tickets Delhi-Sawai Madhopur in Chair Car
  • Train tickets Sawai Madhopur – Jodhpur in 3 tier A/C sleeper class
  • All accommodation on twin-share basis
  • Park entrance fees for excursions listed in the itinerary
  • Services of English speaking guide / tour leader
  • Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)

Tour exclusions.

  • International flights
  • Any airport taxes
  • Travel Insurance
  • Visas
  • Services, Meals and Drinks other than those mentioned in the itinerary
  • Laundry, telephone calls and expenditure of a personal nature
  • Entrance fees (unless specifically mentioned in the inclusions) and extra charges for camera and video
  • Tips (please see note the notes section about the tipping kitty)

A trip that exceeded expectations. Well supported in India and excellent heritage hotels and comfortable vehicle.

Julia Killick, UK