Holiday review by Mrs Karen Griffiths
Name: Mrs Karen Griffiths
Date of trip: 02/11/2018
Number of people: 2
The Taj Mahal at dawn was very special - it wasn't a brilliant sunrise but our guide made sure we were at the front of the queue when the gates opened so that we saw the Taj in all its ethereal glory with no people around. We struck lucky on our third safari trip into Ranthambore park after having had no tiger sightings on our first two trips. For about an hour we watched, at fairly close quarters, a female tiger and her almost fully-grown male cub. To be able to walk around the vast horse fair at Bateshwar was a great experience. It is off the tourist trail, but is an important event in India's horse-trading calendar and in the area. It draws people and horses from considerable distances and creates a wonderful spectacle. We were the only obvious tourists there (and were photographed and interviewed by the local press). We loved the many opportunities to experience life in India - being amongst the crowds of national visitors at forts, palaces and temples (and being asked for photos with them) ; jostling with people, cars, animals and scooters in the bazaars; taking a bicycle rickshaw ride through the alleys of Old Delhi; being in the midst of Hindu pilgrims at Pushkar; dodging the camels and enjoying the party spirit at sunset at the Sam Sand Dunes; seeing and hearing the Diwali celebrations and wonderful lights in Jaipur; walking through the Lodi Gardens in the early morning; watching dancers and musicians performing; travelling on the Shatabdi Express and being expertly driven through India's crazy 'traffic' in cities, towns, villages and open country. In our free time in New Delhi, at our guide's suggestion, we walked from our hotel to nearby Gandhi Smriti, where we spent a couple of hours totally absorbed in the displays at the house where Gandhi spent his final days and hours. We found it very moving and humbling.
Everything about this trip exceeded our already-high expectations. The organisation to support us in India was beyond anything we have ever experienced and, though we didn't meet her until the end, Neena, the Guest Relationship Manager, kept in touch through WhatsApp and worked hard in the background, responding to any feedback from ourselves, our driver or our guides by tweaking or rescheduling arrangements.
The mix of amazing sights, new experiences and comfortable hotels, underpinned by the knowledge that we were being very well looked after, made this a fascinating, absorbing and highly pleasurable holiday.
This experience was up to the excellent standard we have come to expect from Tribes. Paul Cook constructed an itinerary perfectly suited to our interests and we were very impressed with the way the itinerary was structured to enable us to accomplish a huge amount without feeling pressured or tired.
The country and destination information included in the confirmation package was really helpful, so too was Paul's advice on tipping (though we had to ask for it.)
Most were excellent, consulting us on where we would most like to go, adjusting pace and timing to suit us, shepherding us through the crowds, providing historical information in a comprehensible way, giving clear explanations about what we saw, finding ATMs when needed and making sure we saw the best things and captured the best photos. They were also good company, always punctual and concerned for our comfort and well-being.
The rating of 'Good' is given because we found it difficult to understand a few of them, though three spoke very English very well.
Social & Environmental Responsibility:
Chambal Safari Lodge was a good choice from this of view - the owners are very strong on contributing to the local community and its economy, and preserving the environment and wildlife. There also seemed to be a keen sense of environmental responsibility at Ranthambore Kothi and we noticed a number of the other hotels had solar power.
All the hotels employed local people. Also, our driver and guides were all Indian nationals, so our trip helped to provide employment.
The places you stayed
We had a spacious suite and the grounds and gardens were beautiful and well-maintained. There was a well-produced booklet in our room which provided historical notes as well as other helpful information. In addition to the trips that were scheduled for us, we were offered (at no extra cost) and accepted guided walks with one of the naturalists around the lodge grounds during the day and at night, spotting different birds, deer and a civet cat. The food was excellent and the custom of gathering round an outdoor fire before dinner with our fellow guests made for a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. To have 3 nights here after a long journey from the UK enabled us to fully recover and acclimatise.
This "homestay", as our hosts were keen to call it, was comfortable and friendly and we had a lovely room. Breakfast was good and dinner, although there was limited choice, was nicely prepared and tasty. Conveniently located across the road there was a coffee shop and a restaurant with a good menu, and we went there a couple of times.
This modern hotel set in beautiful gardens was a delight and we had a spacious and well-designed room with an outdoor shower. The staff were all helpful and friendly, well-accustomed to the workings of the safari drive system and to ensuring their guests were not left behind. The provision of light refreshments before and after safari trips and the video showings about Ranthambore Park were most welcome .. and the laundry service was amazingly professional and quick and reasonably priced.
It would have been helpful to know that this hotel was located up a narrow steep alleyway, accessible only by foot and that bedrooms were up several flights of stairs (no lift). Our arrival here was not as smooth as elsewhere and there was no local rep to greet us and sort out the formalities. Breakfast was later than elsewhere and didn't start till 8. This was inconvenient for us because we had a long journey ahead, but we were told it was impossible to arrange an earlier time. We were also taken unawares by their not accepting credit cards and we only had just enough cash to pay for our meals.
That said, however, we had a lovely, if small, genuine heritage room, beautifully decorated and furnished, with an adequate bathroom and we enjoyed the good buffet dinner in the rooftop restaurant while admiring the staff's ingenious methods of deterring the fort's resident monkeys from joining us.
A wonderful experience from beginning to end .. as indeed it should have been for the additional cost. Our welcome, fit for a maharana, set the tone - a sunset ride across the lake, a shower of rose petals, a cool drink and an abundance of attentive and friendly staff.
Our room was luxuriously but tastefully decorated and furnished and looked out across the Lake to the Palace. Food was of a high standard and the breakfast buffet was extensive and beautifully presented.
We took the (free) heritage walk around the hotel and went on the hotel's sunset boat trip on the lake (Inntravel organised for us to go on it as part of our itinerary) which culminated with a display of traditional music and dancing in one of the courtyards.
Everything about the hotel was of the highest standard and there were little touches that surprised and delighted - like the bookmarks inserted in our books and the spiced freshening pouches in our shoes.
We are glad we decided to spend the extra to stay there.
Wonderful well-maintained gardens and buildings, friendly and attentive staff. We had a spectacular room with a vast modern bathroom complete with jacuzzi bath. Food was good, a group of traditional dancers and musicians performed on one of the lawns in the evening and we were sorry it was only a one-night stay.
Stunning interiors, and eclectic collections and a bugler to welcome us on arrival. We had a very comfortable art deco room but didn't spend long enough in the hotel to properly test the facilities. We were, however, very satisfied with everything.
A top-end hotel, well located in New Delhi, with good facilities, vigilant security and attentive and helpful staff. We had a good-sized room accessed along a very long corridor. The night lights under the bedside tables were an unusual and welcome feature and food was good, though the Indian restaurant had very limited seating capacity and we were lucky to get a table.