WE HAD TWO CRUISES ON THE WONDERFUL CHAMBAL RIVER again this time and these were the most productive photo sessions of the whole tour with some of us taking well over 2,000 photos per day of numerous different subjects. The highlight of a cruise along the Chambal River is undoubtedly an encounter with the second largest crocodile in the world, the long-snouted Gharial (second only to the monstrous Saltwater Crocodile). We saw plenty of them including a few large-nosed males, amongst the more widespread Marsh Mugger crocodiles. The National Chambal Sanctuary was declared in 1978, mostly to protect this critically endangered, fish-eating crocodile. Named after the Nepalese word ‘ghara’ meaning earthenware pot, referring to the enlarged growth on the end of the snout of mature males, which can grow to six metres long and one tonne in weight. There are fewer than 400 breeding pairs left in its remaining range, a mere 2% of its former distribution, which used to include Pakistan, Burma and the Brahmaputra. A truly magnificent animal! We also had some really bonkers close encounters with a huge Marsh Mugger Crocodile, which thankfully decided not to join us in our boats.
Another major attraction here is the endangered Ganges River Dolphin and the encounter we had this year was easily my best so far, with numerous semi-breaches and I even managed a (albeit record) shot of one this time. They seem to favour the same deep section of the river that I have seen them in year after year, downstream of a couple of river islands and upstream of a large meander, just as they are supposed to. These creatures face a range of threats from pollution to water development projects, hunting (Ganges and Brahmaputra) and entanglement in fishing gear but happily they continue to flourish in the Chambal River.