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 which 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, I will accompany you as your naturalist and we will drive to the river safari point. You should have transportation arranged or I 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. Apart from the river safari I can also take you to some un-touristy attractions in and around Agra. Click here if you would like to go 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 is not your average safari, it's the most 'alive' river eco-system in this part of the country. 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
With guests during the river safari

There are several legends as to why the Chambal has remained a hot spot for wildlife and remains to this day as one of the cleanest rivers in the country. One legend has it that Draupadi from the epic Mahabharat was disrobed on the banks of the Chambal when she was lost over a game of dice to the Kauravas. She then cursed the river and all it's inhabitants that lived around the Chambal that they would never be able to proposer despite having freshwater and abundant food. 

Another legend says, that a king was foretold that in order to please the rain gods in his otherwise parched kingdom, he should sacrifice a thousand cows which he eventually did on the banks of the Chambal. The river was tainted with the blood and hide of cows for years and over time became known as - Chamravati or the River of Hides.

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

In the 20th century, the river and it's surrounding ravines became famous for freedom fighters who fought against the British raj and gangs of bandits - many of whom robbed the rich and gave to the poor. Back in the day many villagers (both men and women) became baaghis (bandits) as they suffered in-justice due to the rampant disparities in the social structure and biased law and order system. 

Chambal Landscape
Chambal Landscape

But thanks to the in-hospitable terrain, the legendary curses, the bandits and blood-thirty crocodiles, the Chambal river remained largely un-polluted and no major cities or industries other than those in Kota (Rajasthan) were established along it's banks for many years. Today, there are four damns up-stream on the Chambal which has had a devastating affect on several species such as the Gharial, turtles and birds such as the Indian Skimmer and Black-bellied Tern as the preferred habitat for these species is slow-flowing water and sandy banks which they use to bask and nest on.

Guided tour on the Chambal
Guided tour on the Chambal

If you want to do the Chambal River Safari on your next visit to Agra, let me know. I will accompany you as your naturalist and will give you an informative tour of the region's history as well as the wildlife. We will meet at a mutually agreed landmark in Agra and proceed to drive to the river. There is no public transportation to the river so you need to organize your own transportation. The river safari is ideally done in the winter months (October/November to March). After these months it gets too hot on the river and migratory birds such as Pochards, Bar-headed geese, Ruddy shelducks etc. fly back to Europe and Central Asia. 

Male Gharial Chambal river
Male Gharial

From June to September end the river 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.

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 I can take you on a 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 me as your naturalist. I recommend you stay in Agra, this way they can not just do the river safari with me but also see the Taj and other monuments in Agra, visit the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary and head onwards to Jaipur.

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, small backpack, sun glasses, cap, sun block, some cash, 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 become bad or there are traffic jams, therefore I would appreciate if you can remain patient when such un-planned circumstances do pop up. 
  • Smoking and drinking alcohol is strictly not permitted on the river banks and during the safari. 
  • Please do not throw trash on the floor or in to the river. I will help to dispose off trash properly.
  • 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.