Chambal River Safari, Agra – Excellent weekend Getaway from Delhi/ NCR

painted storks chambal
A bunch of Painted storks in deep conversation ;)

As I was whisked away in an unmarked van at the break of dawn from my house in Gurgaon, I had little idea I was being taken to the crocodile-infested waters of Chambal river in a rickety boat. 

A little bit of a backstory on how Chambal river safari happened for me.

It was my birthday and my family & friends decided to book a short surprise getaway. As an avid traveler, I was pretty sure I must’ve covered all popular staycation spots ex-Delhi. My calculating brain told me since we had kids and seniors on board, we wouldn’t be going too far.

My initial guesses were our usual road trip wildlife hot spots ex – Delhi – Sariska, Corbett or Ranthambore but I was in for a surprise when I was told it would be a “brand new experience” for me.

Giddy with excitement but unsure of their planning capabilities, I tried to keep my expectations low as we drove off in a chauffer-driven van on the express way.

When we arrived in Agra and I saw the signboards, I was kind of disappointed. All this fuss was for… the Taj Mahal? I mean obviously the Taj is “fuss worthy” but not for a wildlife loving globetrotter – right? My close circle knew me better than that (or did they?).

As doubt crept in, I could clearly imagine a failed birthday trip in a fancy hotel where we would pretty much just sleep and eat (my worse kind of vacations, sadly).

Lo behold – Our van pulls into a resort which I have never even heard of before-  Mela Kothi – Chambal Safari Lodge.

mela kothi chambal

Outside my cottage at Mela Kothi 🙂

Where ARE we? I asked my gang eagerly.

Apparently, we were at the Agra’s side of Chambal river which is famous for birding by river safari and other adventure activities, if you so please.

The lodge itself was beautiful and I was overjoyed by the element of surprise and the fact that we stood a chance to see the rare bird Indian skimmer, which is said to be mostly confined to the banks of Chambal river.

Next we were ushered to our cute cozy rooms which had even bigger sit outs overlooking lush greens.

rooms at Mela Kothi

Cute rooms at Mela Kothi

We could spot Sambhar deer right from the comfort of our cottage’s sit out.

sambhar deer chambal

Lone Sambhar deer gawking at us curiously

What’s more, Mela Kothi has a bunch of trees that are constantly flocked by hundreds of Indian flying fox (Aka greater Indian fruit bat) which can be both interesting as well as intimidating (considering their numbers and huge size).

Indian flying fox chambal

Indian flying fox

What a sight for sore eyes! I was totally in love with Mela Kothi already.

When I tried their scrumptious cuisine, went for the night walk (spotted civet cats) and found their cozy library – I was even more thrilled at the prospect of spending few days here. Suddenly the birthday trip was looking pretty damn good.

What to Expect at the Chambal River Safari

All set for feasting our eyes on the flora and fauna

Once at the top of the banks of the river, you need to hike down to the banks for around 10 mins. It can be a steep hike down and not recommended for senior citizens. My mom braved a bike ride (from a local villager) down the steep dunes to accompany us on this epic adventure of an early morning birthday boat safari.

Chambal River Safari – Bird list

painted storks chambal

A bunch of Painted storks chilling and chatting by the river banks 😉

Once we were on our cute flat bottomed fiber plastic boat, we could spot birds and crocodiles all around.

Gharial soaking the sun

Gharial soaking the sun

It was a mecca of thriving diversity in front of our eyes. We were even lucky enough to spot a couple of Gangetic river dolphins spinning and jumping gleefully.

Chambal river also boasts of different kinds of tortoises.

Indian softshell turtle

Indian softshell turtle

Our morning river safari at the Chambal River Sanctuary was from 9am – 1130 am . The birds we spotted within this span of 2.5 hours were –

Great Thicknee

Great Thicknee

Great Thicknee
Green Shanks
River Lapwings
Green Sandpiper
Little ringed plovers
Temmicks Stint
Temmicks Stint

Temmicks Stint

All these were spotted from our boat on either banks of the Chambal river about 5 km upstream from the boarding point at the base of the bridge under construction.

Black-bellied tern

Black-bellied tern

Black-bellied tern
Black-headed gull
White wagtail
White-browed wagtail
Pied Kingfisher

Pied Kingfisher

Pied Kingfisher

White-throated kingfisher
Wire-tailed swallow
Painted storks
Black-winged stilt
Grey heron
Indian river tern

Where to Stay for Chambal River Safari

Quite honestly there are a handful of options to choose from but from my experience of living at Mela Kothi and scouting a few properties nearby, My vote goes to the gorgeous Mela Kothi.

So have you tried the Chambal river safari to gawk at the beautiful birds yet? If not, head there for an amazing staycation ex Delhi/ NCR. 


  1. How come we did not know about this place? We passed the Chambal river on our way to Panna Tiger reserve. Did not know they had a resort in Chambal. Thanks Jo.

  2. Wow, there’s just so much to see in Agra! Thanks for the info

  3. Wow this Safari looks like such a cool adventure! It’s nice to see so many different kinds of birds and other animals 🙂

  4. Wow! I would have never thought that there is a river safari there.

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