Chambal River Safari

Critically Endangered Gharials, Chambal River
Critically Endangered Gharials, Chambal River

Most travelers visiting Agra go to the Taj Mahal and head back not knowing that there is so much more to do in and around this city than just that. On your next trip to Agra, consider going on a river safari on the Chambal River with Kunal Jain. This experience is just an hour drive from the City of the Taj.
 The meeting point for this tour is a major landmark in Agra. From Agra, Kunal will accompany you as your naturalist and we will drive to the river safari point. You should have transportation arranged or he can book a taxi for you to take you here. The entire experience takes about 5-6 hours including the drive time to the river from Agra. 

Jungle Cat on the Chambal
Jungle Cat on the Chambal

Apart from the river safari, Kunal also takes his guests to un-touristy attractions in and around Agra. Click here if you would like to know more about the attractions he covers when he goes Beyond the Taj

The National Chambal Sanctuary (400+ KM of protected waters) comprises of the Chambal River which flows through the states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh before it merges in to the Yamuna. It was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1978.

The Chambal River Safari with Kunal as your naturalist is not your average safari. Kunal takes you on the a rare and once in a lifetime safari on one of India's most 'alive' river eco-systems. You get to see critically endangered Gharials, Indian Marsh Crocodile, eight species of turtles including the critically endangered Red-crowned Roofed Turtle and several resident and migratory birds including the Indian Skimmer. Mammal species spotted during the river safari include the Striped Hyena, Jackal, Jungle Cat, Desert Fox and the Gangetic River Dolphin (if you're really really lucky). 

chambal river safari dholpur
Kunal with a guest during the safari

The Chambal river is mentioned in our Hindu mythology as well. One story is from Mahabharat and the infamous scene of Draupadi being disrobed by the Kaurava brothers when she was lost by her husbands over a game of dice. While she was being disrobed she cursed the Chambal's inhabitants that they would always live a life of revenge for not coming to her rescue.

Female Gharial
A Female Gharial

Another legend says, that a mighty king in the Chambal valley was foretold that in order to please the rain gods in his otherwise parched kingdom, he must sacrifice a thousand cows which he eventually did on the banks of the Chambal rather than in his kingdom. As a result, the river was tainted with the blood and hide of cows for a very very long time and became known as - Chamravati or the River of Hides.

Indian Skimmers - Celebrities of the Chambal
Indian Skimmers - Celebrities of the Chambal

In the 19th century, the river and it's surrounding ravines became famous for freedom fighters many of whom fought against the British Raj, especially during the First war of Independence in 1857 (also known as the Mutiny). Later on the Chambal valley became infamous across the country for it's notorious gangs of bandits - many of whom robbed the rich and gave to the poor. In those days many villagers (both men and women) became baaghis (bandits or dacoits) as they suffered in-justice due to the rampant disparities in the social structure and biased law and order system. 

Chambal Landscape
Chambal Landscape

Thanks to the in-hospitable terrain, the curses, the bandits and 'blood-thirty' crocodiles, the Chambal river remained largely un-polluted and no major cities or industries other than Kota (Rajasthan) were established along it's banks for many years. Today, there are four damns up-stream on the Chambal which have caused a devastating affect on the survival of many species such as the Gharial, some turtle species, Indian Skimmer and Black-bellied Tern.

Guided tour on the Chambal
Kunal with his guests on the Chambal

If you want to do the Chambal River Safari on your next visit to Agra, please get in touch with Kunal. Kunal will accompany you as your naturalist and will give you an informative tour of the region's history as well as the wildlife. He will meet at a mutually agreed landmark in Agra and together you can drive to the river. There is no public transportation to the river so you need to organize your own transportation. 

Massive Male Gharial
Massive Male Gharial

The river safari is ideally done in the winter months (October/November to March) but can also be done till June. While some of the boats have canopies that provide much needed shade, it is still hot (in the 40s) so please consider this before booking a safari in the months of April, May and June. From April onwards many species winter migrants such as Pochards, Bar-headed geese, Ruddy shelducks etc. fly back to Europe and Central Asia. 

Male Gharial Chambal river
Male Gharial

From July to September, the Sanctuary is closed for safaris due to the monsoons. The river safari is conducted on two different sides both within an hour driving distance from Agra. As such, Agra should be your base where you can stay in one of several hotels / home-stays fitting your budget. This way you can do not just the safari with me but also visit the iconic Taj Mahal and other monuments, places of interest in and around Agra.

Three-striped Roofed Turtle, Lesser-whistling Ducks and Marsh Crocodile
Three-striped Roofed Turtle, Lesser-whistling Ducks and Marsh Crocodile

There are two points on the Chambal where Kunal can take you on the river safari. The Chambal that flows ahead of Dholpur (Rajasthan) demarcates the boundaries of two states - Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The other point where we go on the river safari is in Uttar Pradesh where again the river demarcates the boundaries between the states of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. The Chambal merges in to the Yamuna river at Bhareh after flowing downstream for another some 100 KM from where we do the safari.

chambal wildlife
Desert Fox seen during our river safari

Please email or call +91 9717148483 if you are interested in doing a river safari with Kunal Jain as your naturalist. 

Critically-endangered Red-Crown Roofed Turtle
Critically-endangered Red-Crowned Roofed Turtle

Please Note:
  • There is no guarantee that you will see the above wildlife. The river is their habitat and sightings depend on water level in the river, human interference, climatic conditions, weather and other factors, most of which are beyond your and my control. I will do my best to show you all there is to see. 
  • How to get there: car is the fastest and most efficient.
  • Price of river safari: depends on number of people, number of hours, which side of the river. 
  • Safety: All motor boats are monitored and checked to be in working condition. All safaris include a boatman and a naturalist. Guests have to wear life jackets at all times when on the boat.
  • What to carry: photo identification, camera, binoculars, warm jacket in winter, small backpack, sun glasses, cap, sun block, cash for tips, food/snacks and drinking water.
  • This experience is in the wild and rural India, please do not expect 'luxury' tourist facilities here. Sometimes, road conditions are bad or there are traffic jams, sometimes the boat engine gives up on us, therefore I would appreciate it if you can remain patient when such un-planned circumstances pop up. 
  • Smoking and drinking alcohol is strictly not permitted on the boats and on the river bank. Should you decide to consume alcohol on the river bank, you are personally liable for the risks that come with it.
  • Most of the times there are no trash cans at the river safari points. Sometimes they're there but waste is not disposed off properly. So, please take your trash (including empty plastic bottles) back with you to your cities.
  • To prevent disturbance to wildlife, I do not use or promote the use of any call playback to attract birds, feeding or baiting of wildlife and always maintain a safe distance between them and our boat.