Location: Agra, India
Price: :
Target Year Groups: Y10 to Y13
Maximum number of students: 36
Approximate cost: HK$17,400 
This is a new and exciting trip for us this year. Please see below the proposed itinerary for 2017.

Trip Leaders: Mr Roger Wilkinson

Please note that parents are responsible for the arrangement of visas if required. Please ensure that your child’s passport is valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of departure from their destination.

Tourist Visas for India are non-extendable, non-convertible and there should be a gap of 2 months between two successive visits to India for the nationals of Afghanistan, China, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan, foreigners of Pakistani origin and Stateless persons.

Partner Spotlight – Wildlife SOS

Since 2013 Rustic Pathways has partnered with Wildlife SOS, one of the premier wildlife conservation organizations in India. Wildlife SOS works across the whole of India and helps rescue bears, elephants, panthers, snakes, and many other animals from adverse situation. They help conserve habitat through protection and education, minimize human-wildlife conflict through animal rescue, and work with government departments to craft wildlife friendly legislation.

For several hundred years, the Kalandar community – a nomadic North Indian tribe –trained sloth bears to dance as a source of income. The bears would be poached from their forest habitat, sold to the Kalandar communities, and live out their lives at the end of a rope. In 2002 Wildlife SOS started a project to protect these dancing bears and have since rescued over 1000 bears from the streets. Wildlife SOS took an inspiring approach to rescuing the sloth bears. In addition to giving the bears a new home, they worked with the Kalandar families to provide vocational training, education for their children, and seed money to start new businesses. Since 2002 over 600 bears have been surrendered voluntarily by their owners. In addition to providing training, many former bear owners now work at the bear rescue facility and others are being trained on as support staff.

On this program you’ll learn firsthand about Wildlife SOS, conservation in India, sloth bears and elephants!

Itinerary:

Day 1 (Nov 11 2017: Arrive Delhi)

Arrive into New Delhi Airport to meet your Rustic Pathways leaders waiting for you outside of baggage claim. From the airport you will transfer to the hotel in Delhi. Enjoy the sights and sounds of New Delhi, India’s exciting capital city, and get to know your Rustic Pathways leaders during a relaxing evening of discussion about India and your upcoming adventure!

Overnight: Hotel Singh Sons, New Delhi

Day 2 (Nov 12: Agra Bear Rescue Facility)

After a buffet breakfast and morning briefing, drive from Delhi to your new home in Agra. Today is your first day at the Agra Bear Rescue Facility (ABRF). Drop your bags at your room and head out to ABRF, where you will meet with the Wildlife SOS team members and watch a documentary about the history of dancing bears and the rehabilitative work of Wildlife SOS with both sloth bears and the Kalandar community.

India Con - wildlife-sosIndia Con - ABERF vetsIndia Con - Wildlife-SOS-Logo

Enjoy a cup of chai while Wildlife SOS members talk you through the different responsibilities you will have over the next several days including your work with rescued circus elephants. See the sloth bears and elephants in their new homes as you tour both rescue facilities.

Overnight: Volunteer Quarters, Wildlife SOS, Agra

Day 3 (Nov 13: Agra Bear and Elephant Rescue Facility)

Today your service starts! Spend the morning at ABRF digging into your new responsibilities. Your main tasks include monitoring bear behavior, washing and preparing food, feeding the bears and cleaning the bear dens. Your group will also have the opportunity to design and construct an enrichment structure for a bear enclosure. Enrichments are essential to improving the lives of the bears.

India Con - agra-bearsIndia Con - bear enrichmentIndia Con - bear playing

After lunch and a midday siesta, participate in the evening bear routine followed by your group’s orientation at the elephant rehabilitation facility. Following your introduction to these beautiful, gentle giants, everyone will help feed the elephants.

On the way home stop at a local fruit stand before enjoying a delicious dinner of authentic Indian cuisine. After dinner, prepare bear popsicles with the fruit you picked up in town. Hangout as a group and share your favorite stories from the day before heading to bed.

Overnight: Volunteer Quarters, Wildlife SOS, Agra

Day 4 (Nov 14: Agra Bear and Elephant Rescue Facility)

Early this morning will be your group’s first walk with the elephants. Each student will be paired with an elephant to walk and feed through the beautiful Indian landscape. Learn about the unique challenges each of these elephants have faced prior to their rescue. Take notes on your elephant’s behavior and begin to notice their individual personality traits. After the walk, enjoy a cup of chai and snacks while each student shares their findings with the group. Feed and bathe the elephants as a group before heading to lunch.

India Con - elephant walkIndia Con - elephant & river rzs

Everyday, lunch will be an amazing array of vegetarian Indian dishes served to you at the ABRF. After lunch, your group will engage in the evening bear routine as well as a team brainstorming session on bear enrichment construction designs and ideas.

Head back to the house in the evening for another delightful Indian meal followed by a movie night with popcorn and ice cream.

Overnight: Volunteer Quarters, Wildlife SOS, Agra

Day 5 (Nov 15: Boat Ride)

Today your group will embark on a morning bird watching tour by boat down the serene Yamuna River where you will be sure to find a wide assortment of exotic and dazzling bird species. Come ashore and jump in the safari vehicle for a driving safari in search of wild antelope, hyenas, porcupines, deer, and more!

India Con - boat rzsIndia Con - jeep rzs

Head back to ABRF for lunch and to make the final plans and adjustments to the enrichment structure design before construction. The group will build the enrichment structure in one of the bear enclosures with the help of Wildlife SOS staff members. Once complete, your group will take joy in watching the bears as they climb and play on their new bear jungle gym.

India Con - student rzsIndia Con - work rzs

Tonight your group will visit a marble factory, hunt for bargains in the night bazaar and enjoy dinner out in Agra.

Overnight: Volunteer Quarters, Wildlife SOS, Agra

Day 6 (Nov 16: Sapera Village)

On your last day of volunteering, soak up every minute of your morning walk with the elephants as well as the group’s last elephant routine of preparing food, feeding, and bathing the elephants. By now you will most certainly have a favorite elephant. Don’t forget to give them a hug and an extra piece of fruit before you say goodbye.

India Con - washing elephant rzsIndia Con - elephant close up 1

Today you will also tour the ABRF hospital and gift shop before participating in the group’s last bear routine. It will be hard to say goodbye to the bears, sorry but there will be no bear hugs. Through your service and teamwork, you have helped to improve the lives of these remarkable bears and elephants, time to celebrate!

This evening, head to nearby Sapera village for a very special event. The tribe of Sapera village used to work as snake charmers – a practice that kills snakes and is banned in the Indian constitution. Wildlife SOS helped put a stop to this practice and now the men of the village work as snake rescuers for Wildlife SOS!

India Con - snake rescueIndia Con - snake

At the village you’ll be treated to an evening of music and dancing. Gather in a courtyard of the village and listen to the unique songs of the village, passed down through generations. Then put on your dancing shoes and shake a leg – Sapera style! The kids will trade you moves and tempt you to keep up as the whole crowd gets going.

Enjoy the evening in the village and then head back to the volunteer quarters for a late dinner and some
much needed rest.

Overnight: Volunteer Quarters, Wildlife SOS, Agra

Day 7 (Nov 17: Taj Mahal, Departure)

After your week spent volunteering it’s time for a treat: the Taj Mahal. Get up early and catch the Taj at sunrise, as the colors of the marble are shifting and changing with the light.

Taj MahalIndia Con - Taj Mahal rzs

After the inspiring show head to breakfast with your group and then visit the nearby Agra Fort, where you will learn about the Mughal Empire and Shah Jahan – the emperor who constructed the Taj Mahal.

India Con - Agra FortIndia Con - Agra Fort 1

Finish up your tour and head back to the ABRF to bid goodbye to your friends at Wildlife SOS. You’ll pack your backs and make the drive back up to Delhi. Then head out into the bazaars for one last chance at the perfect souvenir.

This evening after dinner you will have a closing ceremony to wrap up your Indian adventure and get ready
for the transition home!