Tour description : Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay (now Mumbai) on 30 December 1865 when his father, John Lockwood Kipling, was Principal and Professor of Architectural Sculpture at the city’s Sir JJ School of Art. He spent his formative years in India, then returned to the subcontinent as a young man, working and travelling for pleasure. This tour incorporates places which Kipling visited and which inspired his writing, most famously in the Jungle Book, Just So Stories, and Kim.
Starting in Mumbai, our city tour will include a visit to Kipling’s birthplace, where a plaque commemorates his birth. The school has some striking oriental architecture and remains a center of creative expression and learning. We will continue on to see some of the greatest colonial contributions to the city’s skyline including the UNESCO World Heritage Victoria Terminus, the Rajabai Clocktower (modelled on Big Ben) and the Gateway of India. The Gateway overlooks Mumbai Harbour where Kipling returned by steamer after enduring his schooling in England.
A short domestic flight will bring us to Nagpur, from where we can drive into the Kanha National Park. Founded in 1973 as part of Project Tiger, the park’s sal and bamboo forests are prime habitat for wild Bengal tigers, and so Kanha is widely considered to be one of the best places in the world for tiger spotting. We will stay at Kipling Camp, a birdwatchers paradise, and on our safaris can expect to see herds of cheetal, sambar, spotted deer and the rare barasingha in the meadows; large gaur (wild oxen) on the hillsides; and silver langur monkeys, who bark in warning whenever a tiger is near. The tigers are well camouflaged in the long grass, but the expert rangers know just how to spot them.
We will now wind our way north via Allahabad to Delhi onboard India’s evocative railways, Kipling’s own preferred means of travel. Kipling was well-acquainted with both Herbert Baker and Edwin Lutyens, the two architects of New Delhi, and wrote to Baker in January 1913 congratulating him on his commission and urging him to keep control of his colleague and not let him smarm Delhi with his affectations. You will be able to judge his success for yourself when we visit India Gate and Viceroy’s House (now Rashtrapati Bawan, the Presidential palace). There will also be time to visit the impressive Jama Masjid (the largest mosque in India) and the labyrinthine lanes of Chadni Chowk (“the moonlit square”), one of Delhi’s oldest and busiest markets.The final part of the tour will see us board the train to Kalka and then connect with The Himalayan Queen to Shimla, known also as the toy train. The Kalka-Shimla railway is a masterpiece of engineering: it is a heritage line through the hills with more than 120 tunnels and breath-taking mountain views. Kipling came to Shimla for his summer vacation in 1883 and returned for a month each summer from 1885-88. He took the train here from Lahore and threw himself into the town’s many pleasures: picnics, dancing and theatrical performances. He used Shimla as a setting in Plain Tales from the Hills, The Phantom Rickshaw and other Tales and, most famously of all, Kim. Lurgan Sahib’s house and Curiosity Shop; the Town Hall and the Alliance Bank; and, of course, the shops and bazaar all survive and are fascinating to explore.
USP : The life and works of Rudyard Kipling, with a particular focus on India’s wildlife. Best time of year for the trip to run: November to April (Shimla to be avoided from December until beginning of February as it might snow)