Jill and Dan Pavlat

Jill and Dan Pavlat

Contributor at HITravelTales.com
Seeing animals in their natural habitats is a thread that runs through the lives and travels of Livonia, Mich., residents Dan and Jill Pavlat. Both retired early to fully embrace traveling (Dan was an engineering manager at Ford and Jill a law firm manager). Today, they are both Detroit Zoo docents. Jill has camped through Nepal … where she first saw an Asian rhino; together, they camped through the virgin jungle of the Amazon … where they were awakened by monkeys scampering across the canopy. Trips are often a bit adventurous too – Galapagos, Yellowstone in the winter, and bareboat sailing in Tahiti and Greece. But the animals are always a highlight!
Jill and Dan Pavlat

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Jill and Dan Pavlat of Livonia, Mich. wanted to see a tiger. To help make that dream come true, they signed up for a Journeys international trip to India that included took them on safari in India twice. You double down on your opportunities when your goal is to see such an elusive creature. Of course along the way, they immersed themselves in the rest of the cultural experiences that India had to offer – food, tribal dances, small villages and, of course, wild animals galore. They wrote a journal and shared it with HI Travel Tales. Read on to travel along with them in India’s parks and countryside:

We journeyed to India with the primary purpose of seeing a tiger in the wild so we signed up for a trip that took us on safari in two of India’s national parks. Our hope was to meet that expectation. Our trip included a stop in the village of Ziro where we would meet some of the local Apatani people and learn about their culture. (Ed. Note: The Apatani Cultural Landscape is a tentative UNESCO World Heritage site.) There, we could take part in the annual tribal celebration of Myoko, which included warm hospitality along with ritual animal sacrifices after which the gods and goddesses would bless the village.

Asia buffalo on our India safari.

Asian buffalo peering through the grasses (Photo by Jill Pavlat)

Let the wildlife viewing begin!

 Via Delhi onward to Guawahrti: From there, we were off to Kaziranga National Park. We were excited to see wild animals! We traveled no more that quarter-mile in our open-air jeep before we spotted a wild Asian one-horned rhino. As we rounded a bend we spotted seven more! There were also wild Asian elephants, Asian buffalo, deer, Asian badger and an array of birds. And all this on the first day! On subsequent days, we took two more safari trips and were never disappointed in the variety and number of animals we saw, including the elusive king cobra.

On safari in India, you will likley see rhino like this.

(Photo by Jill Pavlat)

Following Kaziranga, we drove through the rice fields and tea plantations that make up the state of Assam. The luscious greens from both crops flooded the countryside. We arrived at the Brahmaputra River to catch a ferry to take us to the island of Majuli where we visited a monastery. The monks there practice a form of Hinduism called Vaishnavism. There, the younger monks performed a drum dance for us honoring Vishnu.

Monks perform a drum dance in India.

Drum dance honoring Vishnu (Photo by Jill Pavlat)

After leaving Assam we had a grueling yet visually exciting seven hours of travel to the state of Arunachal in far northeastern India. That is where the old village of Ziro is, nestled in a valley in the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains. In that area we lodged with Apatani tribe members for a homestay and explored the area. Some of the older women still have traditional facial tattoos and large nose plugs although that tradition is no longer practiced among the younger women.

Apatani tribe member in India.

Apatani tribal woman with traditional facial tattoos (Photo by Jill Pavlat)

Apatani tribe’s Myoko celebration of prosperity

We traveled into the larger town of Ziro in time to watch the celebration of the Myoko. Male members of the Apatani tribe, including small children, march and chant carrying cane branches as they parade throughout town to welcome Myoko. Following this part of the celebration, homes are opened to anyone to visit and share food and rice beer or millet wine. Our local guide took us to several homes to meet some of the people and to partake in this part of the celebration. It was an incredible experience to be with the people in their homes and to share in their generosity.

The next day is the main day of celebration with sacrifices so that the gods and goddesses will bless the community. Pigs are brought to the sacrificial alter before sunrise. Recently married women appear in festive attire and sprinkle rice flour and rice beer over the dozens of pigs. (Ed. Note: The priest selects a few pigs for a special ritual where the pig’s belly is cut open and its heart is ripped out while the animal is still alive!) After the sacrifice there is more celebration, focusing on prosperity, friendship and fertility. This was an experience I could have never imagined and will remember forever.

When we left Ziro we headed to Dibrugarh, which is only miles from the border with Myanmar, to fly into Kolkata (Ed. Note: formerly known as Calcutta) where we spent a couple of days sightseeing. We visited a renowned local painter who mixes his own paints from local plants and materials. We saw an ornate Jain temple (there are many throughout India), the Queen Victoria monument, street artisans, vendors of all kinds, and the omnipresent free-roaming cattle. And we will not forget the multi-course Bengali dinner!

On Safari in India: Wildlife viewing calls

Seeing a tiger in the water on our India Safari.

Another tiger — goal satisfied! (Photo by Jill Pavlat)

But our goal was to go on safari so we boarded another plane which took us to Raipur then onward to Kanha National Park. We went out on safari in India several times and were not disappointed with what we saw. While we saw one tiger at a distance, we were incredibly fortunate to spot two different tigers, both male and both of which walked in front of our jeep with only a couple of yards distance separating us. This was the thrill we had hoped for, and we were not disappointed. What majestic creatures. There, our stay at the Singinawa Jungle Lodge pleasantly rounded out the journey.

What to do in India

In the map below, pins mark the exact location of the sites and places to see mentioned in our articles and travel tips on India. Zoom in or out on the map using the controls. Switch easily from map to satellite view. Click on each pin to pull up a tooltip with the name of the destination or location as well as any additional information, including links to stories and articles. This map is the perfect place to begin planning what to do in India for one, two, three or more weeks.

Kanha National Park

Kanha National Park, also known as Kanha Tiger Reserve, is a vast expanse of grassland and forest in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. Tigers, jackals and wild pigs can be spotted in Kanha Meadows. The elevated plateau of Bamhnidadar is home to birds of prey. Animals often gather at the watering holes of Sondar Tank and Babathenga Tank. The park’s flora and fauna are documented in the park's Kanha Museum.  Read more in our story, On Safari in India to See Tigers, and Much More.

Kaziranga National Park

Kaziranga National Park is a national park in the Golaghat and Nagaon districts of the state of Assam, India. The sanctuary, which hosts two-thirds of the world's great one-horned rhinos, is a World Heritage Site. Read more in our story, On Safari in India to See Tigers, and Much More.

Island of Majuli

Mājuli or Majoli is referred to as the biggest river island in the world and it is located on the Brahmaputra River in Assam, India. It has been the cultural capital of the Assamese people since the 16th century. Read more in our story, On Safari in India to See Tigers, and Much More.  Also learn more here.

Ziro

"We traveled into the larger town of Ziro in time to watch the celebration of the Myoko. Male members of the Apatani tribe, including small children, march and chant carrying cane branches as they parade throughout town to welcome Myoko. Following this part of the celebration, homes are opened to anyone to visit and share food and rice beer or millet wine." Read more in our story, On Safari in India to See Tigers, and Much More.

Kolkata

"When we left Ziro we headed to Dibrugarh, which is only miles from the border with Myanmar, to fly into Kolkata (Ed. Note: formerly known as Calcutta) where we spent a couple of days sightseeing. We visited a renowned local painter who mixes his own paints from local plants and materials." Read more in our story, On Safari in India to See Tigers, and Much More.

Singinawa Jungle Lodge

Singinawa Jungle Lodge offers 12 luxury cottages in an area of 55 acres along with rich grasslands, plenty of water holes, river & dense forest area. Each cottage is tastefully designed to keep all comforts in mind. Each cottage has a large bedroom, private veranda, en-suite bathrooms with double vanities & rain showers, live fireplaces, air conditioning & mini bar. Singinawa Jungle Lodge offers a grand dining area which serves verity of Continental and Indian cuisine, Fresh & home cooked food. Most of the fresh vegetables come from the organic farming at the nearby villages. Read more in our story, On Safari in India to See Tigers, and Much More.        

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Journeys International is the longest standing family-owned global adventure travel company in the US. We offer full-service exotic, guided cross-cultural explorations, nature safaris, treks and eco-tours in remote corners of Asia, Africa, the Americas and the Pacific. Founded by current directors Will and Joan Weber in 1978, Journeys boasts an extraordinary record of client and staff satisfaction and several industry awards.

Heads up! This information about travel and safari in India was accurate when we published it on HI Travel Tales, but, as we know, traveling is all about changes (and inflation, sadly). Please be sure to confirm prices, transportation schedules, hours of operation, safety and health considerations, request for perfect weather during your entire visit, and any other important details before your adventure.