“My absolute highlight of this trip – a cliché I know – has got to be the Taj Mahal. For me it was completely unexpected; I’ve seen so many pictures of the palace that I’d become almost blasé about seeing it in real life. But seeing it in the flesh I was blown away. We got there for 5am to watch the sunrise and the changing colours were beautiful, then learning about the history brought the place to life. We then had a fantastic guide at the Agra Fort which was a contrast but equally as beautiful with a sad story – after building the Taj Mahal for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, the Emperor Shah Jahan was locked up in the Agra Fort, forced to look out over the river to his beloved Palace."
Then onto Ranthambore we took the optional game drive to spot the elusive Bengal tiger. The landscape was exactly how I pictured the scenes from The Jungle Book – dark wooded areas with ancient trees, pools of water, oasis-like lakes and huge boulders. Then to see the tiger emerge from this background was incredible. We also got to see a beautiful black Sloth bear which my two girls were absolutely made up about. We stayed at the Raj Palace in Ranthambore where we had a great pool and a large garden where the children all played 40-40. The rooms were spacious and clean and the food was excellent. It also had great after dinner entertainment, especially the dancing.
We also stayed at a quirky family run fort-style hotel in Pachewar where each room had its own eclectic style and there was a beautiful courtyard and gardens to look out onto and relax in. After the more hectic days before this was a welcome relief, the slower pace and chance to wander and meet locals – we absolutely loved it. We were cooked a delicious meal by some local ladies and the kids in the group got to meet and play with the local children which they loved doing throughout the trip.
Our group dynamics, with 11 kids and 7 adults, worked incredibly well – they all headed straight to the back of the bus and were transfixed by what was going on outside on the streets. Our Explore Leader, Hari, kept the group entertained at all times and always made sure we were happy. This was a welcome relief for the adults who wanted a trip to India without the challenge of organisation, as well as for their children to have some ready-made friends to enjoy the trip with.
I’d recommend an extra day at the start of the trip to get some rest before the trip starts. There are some early starts but we were all so excited for the day that lay ahead. The children absolutely loved the activities on this trip – from riding in a rickshaw to high-fiving kids from their tuk-tuks in Delhi it was the action they loved most. Most days it was all about a swim at the end day and hotels were judged on the quality of the pool!
How would I sum up this trip? Varied and exciting with something for everyone. You cannot fail to enjoy the experience of India. It’s educational for young and old and a real eye opener for anyone who has not travelled extensively. It was a very special experience – to take my children to such a colourful, vibrant and exciting country and to see their faces, in both wonder and surprise, at some of the sights that they saw, is something that I will cherish forever.”
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