Family History and Sightseeing Tour of India – March 2017

A summary of a family history and sightseeing tour of India by Anne Brookes

On our fifth trip to India in 2015 we had travelled with the ‘Families in British India Society’ and this group tour had been faultlessly organised by Indus Travel. As well as good accommodation we had travelled to many places of interest connected to fellow travellers, plus ones relating to the Brookes clan and several old cemeteries on behalf of British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia (BACSA). We also spent time on the tourist trail, which included visiting the fabulous Golden Temple at Amritsar, the Taj Mahal at Agra and Shimla. Because many of the places we wished to explore this year were not on the normal tourist route, we contacted Indus travel to request their knowledge and expertise in organising a bespoke tour.

The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel

By Vikramjit Kakati (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

After much discussion we flew from Heathrow to Mumbai on the 7th May, to enjoy a few nights staying at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel—expensive but a lovely pre-55th wedding anniversary treat. With only a first name and photograph, the staff at Indus Travel had located our previous guide Sunita and so, with our trusty driver Santosh, we began another tour of many interesting sites in Mumbai. We were transported in our comfortable Toyota Innova car, with Santosh avoiding numerous scooters and erratic car driver to revisit St Thomas Cathedral, various temples, an interesting museum and several of the other sites, as recommended on the tourist map. I had requested a return trip to the huge dhobi complex and also we were fascinated watching the final part of the ‘lunch-box’ delivery service. Sunita was unavailable on the next day but Santosh was on hand to take us wherever we wanted to go. This included an early morning, through the Sassoon Gate to visit the busy fish market area, where trucks arrive with blocks of ice, ready for the fish and prawns to be transported elsewhere. Along with several tours from the cruise ships, we walked around Crawford Market; the livestock area didn’t appeal but the array of fruit and vegetables was amazing and we did purchase bananas.

On the 11th we left Mumbai for an interesting drive, through hills to Pune, where we checked in to the comfortable Hyatt Regency Hotel, situated on the outskirts of the large modern city and after a relaxing afternoon, next morning we were ready or another sightseeing trip with our guide Daya. Our main reason for visiting Pune was to visit the church and cemetery which had a connection with John’s maternal grandmother, who along with several siblings, during their father’s army posting, had been born here. We were made very welcome at St Mary’s Church and John was shown the original christening and death records pertaining to the Waite family. We then proceeded to the St Sepulchre Cemetery; where not surprisingly, the area dating back to the late 1800’s was very overgrown but photographs were taken to pass on to BACSA. We reverted to being tourist and were shown many interesting places, including the house where, during a period of house arrest, Mahatma Ghandi and his wife had chosen to live simply, in one of the many rooms. We also saw a popular ashram, where celebrities pay to dress in flowing robes and also live the simple life, which appeared to include periods of non-energetic dancing. As one of our interests is the history of WW1 & 11, we appreciated the visit to the beautifully kept Kirkee Commonwealth War Cemetery.

Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus (Victoria Terminus Station)

By Shaileshsonare (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

On the 14th we had another long journey to Sholapur and I had to smile when we passed the sign ‘ALWAYS OVERTAKE FROM THE RIGHT’ but as the trucks invariably stayed in the right lane, this sign was ignored by all drivers. The purpose of this visit, to what was more of an industrialised town, was to see where John’s father, Archie Brookes, was born in 1906 and where his grandfather Oliver had been posted (probably from Calcutta) to work as a train guard. Oliver’s career with the railways ended in 1937 with him holding a prominent position at Victoria Terminus (Chhatrapati Station) in Mumbai, before retiring to live in Bangalore. Once again we were booked into another spacious and clean room at the modern Balaji Sarovar Premiere Hotel, located on the edge of the sprawling town and adjacent to the small airport. Next day we were joined by our excellent guide Amit, who did his best to describe how Sholapur would have appeared during the early 1900s but now very little of the old town survives. However we were introduced to the station master of the present Railway Station, which was opened in 1956 and given a brief talk about how the original railway still retain some of the original ideas—including the train engines showing odd or even numbers, to indicate which way they are travelling. We were also shown the area where the railway employees, including John’s grandfather, would have lived and worked during the period Oliver resided in Sholapur and then travelled to the isolated Christ Church, where Archie was christened to meet the caretaker and take photographs. Then after a tour of the town and a promised visit to Bhuikot Fort later, we were taken to First Church and met Pastor Vivas Vinay (who also looks after Christ Church); he and his wife made us very welcome and although no records exist from the early 1900s, we did have a nice chat.

Our Family History Tour was now over and we reverted to tourists with a circular route towards Goa had been arranged; this involved more very long drives but seeing the scenery, people and animals of rural India was fascinating. However, despite roughing it in some places over the years, I was disgusted with the Madhuvan International Hotel in Bijapur; the wording international was a misnomer and my wording would have said Madhuvan Doss House and Flea Pit. To be fair we had been advised that whilst Bijapur had some wonderful old architecture, including Gol Gumbaz Tomb, it was not a tourist area and so we didn’t have high expectations. However, it didn’t help that the place resembled a building site and the receptionist couldn’t find our names in his tatty book. John did try to explain that an executive room should have been reserved but there was a language problem and so we ended up in a tiny room with a dripping A/C system and extremely hard beds. We had decided to move on to our next destination rather than stay a second night but fortunately, after a phone call to Indus Travel who phoned the hotel, an executive room was available. The word executive was also was a misnomer as there were no towels etc, we also had a hole in the ceiling but at least the beds were ‘less firm’ and we had enjoyed the sights. NB—for future tourists wishing to visit Bijapur, the nearby Hotel Pearl did appear to be of a higher standard of accommodation.

Our next two night stay was in the modern EEFA Hotel at Belgaum, where we had a lovely spacious room, comfortable beds, a fridge and a working shower. We had an interesting stay, with a tour of the town, visiting more temples and enjoying a tour and a chat with a volunteer at a non-religious but less commercialised ashram. On the 20th we drove to Hubbli, where we stayed in a comfortable suite at the Clarke’s Inn; again this was perfectly acceptable accommodation, especially when we finally received towels and toilet paper. Once again we had a comprehensive and interesting tour of the town with Santosh, which included many temples but also a view of how the locals lived in their nearby farming community.

The long drive to Goa included many miles through a Nature Reserve with signs advising of the varied wildlife there but all we saw was one monkey as we approached the coastal region. Our third visit to the Cidade De Goa Hotel, located just outside Panjam City was restful but we also chose several areas to visit, including the wonderful churches in Old Goa. On the 27th we were on the road again for our long drive to Chiplun, where we stayed in an isolated spot at The River View Resort; our first room had a dodgy toilet but once we had moved we could enjoy the old world charm of this slightly ‘down at heel’ accommodation. The views of the gardens and the distant river made up for the many steps to the dining room and after the noise from the ‘all-inclusive’ families at Cidade De Goa, it was very peaceful here. Once again Santosh took us on a tour of the area and at our request this included a visit to the railway station in Chiplun; we had rail tickets for next day and wanted to be on the platform when Tuesday’s Mandovi/Mumbai express departed. It was fascinating to watch the hundreds of passengers climbing aboard, what appeared to us to be, an already full train. However, as Santosh had to take the car back to Mumbai on the 29th, we did decide to travel with him rather than wait until late afternoon for our train. Our final long drive was another interesting journey and I watched as we negotiated busy junctions and heavy traffic in the various towns and in one we stopped for a delicious Tali lunch. I also saw many school children going to or from school and drove past fruit sellers, cows, goats and abandoned road widening projects, all on the way back to the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. With the hard working and reliable Santosh, Mumbai, was where we enjoyed the last two days of our wonderful return trip to India.

Santosh, who had been at our disposal 24/7 since picking us up at Mumbai airport 24 days previously, was there to take us back to the airport for our return to the UK.

We now have to save our pennies for a possible Indus Experiences tour to Burma but with our anniversary trip to America in September, this holiday will have to wait for another year.

Gallery

A selection of images that John and Anne have very kindly sent to accompany this article.

Who Are You? Family History Tours

Family History Tours imageBritain has strong historical ties to the Indian Subcontinent: Charles II received the port of Bombay as part of his wife’s wedding dowry in 1661; the British East India Company built Fort William, kickstarting the development of Calcutta, in 1698; and from 1857 Calcutta and then New Delhi were the capital cities of the British Raj, a territory stretching across almost all of present-day India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

With so many centuries of ties, economic and political as well as cultural and social, it should come as no surprise that millions of families in the UK trace at least part of their family history back to India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Burma, all of which are major Indus Experiences’ destinations. For many, their family’s origins are in the subcontinent, and their parents or grandparents migrated to the UK and settled there. For others, their forefathers went to India to serve with the Indian Army, with the Indian Civil Service, or as traders, missionaries, businessmen, and in numerous other capacities. Whatever your family’s link with India, wherever in the country they lived, our family history tours can help you learn about your past, and to put it in perspective.

Sy John Church Meerut

St John’s Church, Meerut

Each of our family history tours is carefully tailored to you own family, the places your ancestors lived, studied, worked, and, in many cases, were buried. If your father or grandfather served in the Indian military, for example, you might be interested in visiting significant battlefields, such as Kohima Ridge, where 1,500 British and Indian soldiers held out for 14 days against the Japanese Imperial Army, despite being outnumbered 10:1.

Thousands of Scottish engineers came to India to design and build the country’s vast rail network — the pride of India — and the trains were the primary means of transport within the subcontinent for foreigners and Indians alike. You can retrace the journeys of your ancestors, maybe even riding on a railway line they built, when you take one of our fascinating, not to mention photogenic, railway tours.

St John Cemetery Meerut

St John’s Cemetery, Meerut

For many families, then and now, the church played a central role in family life and was a social hub for the entire community. Travel with us to Goa or Pondicherry, and not only can you have a gloriously relaxing beach stay, but you can see the Roman Catholic churches too. Up in the hill stations of Shimla, Darjeeling, and Nainital (the ‘Lake District of India’), in the foothills of the Himalayas, are numerous Anglican churches, some of them near-perfect replicas of the missionaries’ parish churches back home. The cemeteries here, often lovingly tended by the modern congregation, are the final resting places for thousands of colonial Brits who were born and lived in India.

From April 7-9, the Who Do You Think You Are, Live exhibition will take place at Birmingham’s NEC. We will be on Stand 96 in the Society of Genealogists’ area, and will also be giving a talk, entitled Names, Graves and a Letter of introduction from the British High Commission, at 16.15 on Friday 8th in Theatre 3.  We hope to see some of you there.

Upcoming Family History Tours

‘Saving Spiti’ Documentary Film Launch

Spiti documentary‘Saving Spiti’ is an outstanding documentary film about Joan Pollock and her work with the Spiti Projects charity. The film is made by Hugh Purcell – former Head of BBC Documentaries. Hugh won a BAFTA for his series with Ken Burns on the American Civil War and has taught at International Film Schools in Denmark, Cuba, India and Eastern Europe.

The photographer and editor of the documentary is the award winning Zena Merton.

Film launch details

April 12, 2016 at 7pm
Royal Geographic Society
1 Kensington Gore, London SW7 2AR

Tickets £20.00 (Under 16’s £10)

BUY ONLINE

Doors open at 6pm with craft stall, raffle and photographic exhibition.
(Exhibiton Road entrance)

At the same time Joan is holding a photographic exhibition ‘Spiti. A Himalayan Story‘ in the Pavillion at the Royal Geographical Society from 11 April to 6 May 2016.

See also

Group Tours led by Joan Pollock

Glories of South India

A small group tour Led by Joan Pollock

From 28 January 2017 – 11 February 2017

From the architectural richness of Karnataka to the lush green Kerala and the stunning majestic temples of Tamil Nadu, this tour brings the startling contrast that is Southern India.Yet, all the facets, are bound together by a sense of history and timelessness. The stay in Sera Jey Monastry Bylakuppe is a special one arranged by Joan Pollock. Sera Jey Monastery is one of the principal seats of learning Gelugpa Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.

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Itinerary

Mahabalipuram • Madurai • Munnar • Houseboat • Cochin • Mysore • Bylakuppe • Bangalore

Day 1 – Saturday 28 Jan – To Chennai

Fly from Heathrow to Chennai on direct British Airways flight.

Day 2 – Sunday 29 Jan – Chennai

On arrival drive to the Taj Fisherman’s cove hotel. Two nights. Afternoon sightseeing tour of Chennai, including St Thomas’s Cathedral, Fort St George and St Mary’s Church.

Day 3 – Monday 30 Jan – Mahabalipuram

Drive to the World Heritage town of Mahabalipuram, with its delicate Shore Temples, series of graceful Rathas and charming carved Ajuna’s Penance. Lunch at Shore Beach Restaurant.

Day 4 – Tuesday 31 Jan – To Madurai

Morning flight to Madurai. Sightseeing tour including the bazzar and an evening visit to the Meenakshi Temple to witness the “going to bed ceremony” when the statue of Lord Shiva is carried to the chamber of his wife, Parvati, on a silver chariot. The colourful procession, accompanied by musicians, Temple singers and priests is a cacophony of sound. Two nights at the Taj Gateway Madurai.

Day 5 – Wednesday 01 Feb – To Munnar

Wonderful scenic drive through the southern Ghats to the breathtakingly beautiful hill station of Munnar. We shall visit a tea plantations, and spice garden during our time in Munnar. One night at either the Windermere or Ambady Estates.

Day 6 – Thursday 02 Feb – To Alleppy

Morning drive to Alleppey. Board the Vaikundam to spend the afternoon cruising along the Backwaters in a traditional rice boat, a Kettuvallam, now converted into a relaxing Houseboat. Overnight on an air -conditioned Houseboat.

Day 7 – Friday 03 Feb – To Cochin

Disembark after breakfast and drive to Cochin. Two nights at the Taj Malabar hotel. Evening Kathakali dance performance – arrive early to watch the dancers apply their elaborate makeup.

Day 8 – Saturday 04 Feb – In Cochin

Morning sightseeing of Cochin includes the Dutch Palace, St Francis Church, the Chinese Fishing Nets and Jewish Synagogue. Evening sunset cruise round the harbour bay.

Day 9 – Sunday 05 Feb – To Mysore

Fly to Bangalore, four hour drive to Mysore. En-route visit Srirangapatna, once the home of Hyder Ali and his son Tippu Sultan – The Tiger of Mysore. Three nights at Royal Orchid Metropole Hotel

Day 10 – Monday 06 Feb – In Mysore

Morning sightseeing tour of the lovely city of Mysore. Visits includes the Devraja market, Nandi Bull and the Mysore Royal Palace.

Day 11 – Tuesday 07 Feb – Mysore

Morning visit the superb Temple at Somnathpur built to glorify Hoysala craftsmanship. Afternoon visit to the Ranganthittoo Bird Sanctuary, which covers 209 Sq. miles. Enjoy a boat safari on the.Kaveri River accompanied by a trained naturalist.

Day 12 – Wednesday 08 Feb – To Sera Je Monastery, Bylakuppe

Drive to Bylakuppe. A two hour drive for a two nights stay at the Sera Monastery. We shall be looked after by the monks of House No 2. Experience life in a Tibetan monastery. There is also a thriving Tibetan community with fifteen settlements where Tibetan refugees are self sufficient.. Stay two nights at a Guest House on campus.

Day 13 – Thursday 09 Feb – Sera Je Monastery

Full day at the Sera Je and be shown round the extensive grounds by the monks. Observe a day in the like of a Tibetan Monk.

Day 14 – Friday 10 Feb – To Bangalore

Drive to Bangalore. Overnight in an airport hotel.

Day 15 – Saturday 11 Feb – To Heathrow

Fly to Heathrow on direct British Airways flight.

About the tour leader Joan Pollock

Joan Pollock image

I am a botanist by training, with a PhD in plant physiology and a broader interest in plant ecology. In recent years my focus has been on teaching rather than research and I have taught interdisciplinary science with the UK’s Open University, as well as whole organism biology at Durham University. Teaching at both universities has included running field trips on which students learned about assessing biodiversity, the impact of environmental factors on plant growth and processes such as succession. I am really keen to encourage people to look at how organisms interact with their environment, particularly at a time when we can see that environment changing. I would like to do this in Kasmir and Ladakh by looking at how the vegetation changes with factors such as altitude and rainfall and also at how primary succession allows the colonisation of bare ground. The Himalayas, with their natural beauty and the fact that so many British garden plants have their origins here, make an ideal location for this.

THE COST From

  • Per Person on a Double/ Twin share basis £2,845.00
  • Single room supplement £325.00

Cost Includes:

  • International & internal flights in economy class.
  • Accommodation with en-suite facilities.
  • Half Board meals throughout. Full Board arrangements in Munnar and on the Houseboat.
  • All transfers and sightseeing by a Toyota Innova Cars and Coach.
  • Entry fee to monuments and places of interest.
  • Entry fee and services of a local English speaking guide.
  • Services of Joan Pollock as Tour Leader
  • Full ATOL & ABTA bonding

Cost does not include:

  • Visa Fess for India-British passport holders can now obtain an E-Tourist Visa online.
  • Any expenses of a personal nature like laundry, telephone calls, beverages, gratuities etc
  • Travel Insurance.

TRAVEL INSURANCE

It is essential to have adequate insurance in place before your departure. This should be appropriate for your age, health and destination you are visiting.

Please ensure:

  • It includes comprehensive medical and repatriation cover.
  • It provides cover for your whole trip (whether one day or over a year).
  • It covers you for all activities.
  • Disclose pre-existing medical conditions.
  • Take your policy number and the 24-hour emergency contact numbers with you.
  • If you are making multiple trips we recommend that you take a yearly travel insurance policy.
  • If you have any question about your cover, please check with your insurer.

For a comprehensive travel insurance quote – please click here

HOW TO BOOK THIS TOUR

If you wish to book this tour , please compete the booking form, sign and e-mail it to us. A non-refundable deposit of £400.00 per person is needed at the time of booking. Balance payments will be due 8 weeks before departure. You can make the deposit payment by debit card or electronic transfers to our bank. Credit card payment will be charge at 2% extra. Our Bank details are on the booking form. Bookings are confirmed on first come first served basis. When the tour is full we will take about 5 additional names on the waiting list to replace their booking with any cancellations etc.

Click here to download the booking form.

Read our Booking Terms and Conditions

Lakes and Mountains of Kashmir and Ladakh

A small group tour Led by Joan Pollock

03 September 2016- 14 September 2016

Dramatic snow-capped mountain peaks, their splendour dominating the lush green pastures of the valley,embrace the beautiful vale of Kashmir. Spend time relaxing on a traditional Houseboat, wander the Alpinepastures of Gulmarg and explore the beautiful gardens created by the Mughul Emperors. Then, climbing tohigh altitudes, visit the enigmatic state of Ladakh, the seat of ancient Buddhist culture. It’s wild and barren,yet, a gentle charismatic land. See magnificent Monasteries and spiralling mountain passes.

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Itinerary

London • Delhi • Leh • Srinagar • Gulmarg • Delhi • London

Day 1 Saturday – 03 September 16 – To Delhi

Depart Heathrow on direct Jet Airways flight to Delhi.

Day 2 Sunday – 04 September 16 – Delhi

Morning arrival in Delhi. Rest and relax at the hotel. Afternoon sightseeing of Old Delhi includes an enchanting cycle rickshaw ride to Jamma Masjid through bustling streets of Chandani Chowk once the centre of Mughal City –Shah Jehanabad.

Day 3 Monday – 05 September 16 – To Leh

Fly from Delhi to Leh in the morning. Transfer to Hotel Grand Dragon. Morning at leisure to rest and relax at the hotel. Afternoon walk to the Leh bazaar followed by a visit to the Shankar Gompa which housing countless statues of pure gold and a number of interesting paintings.

Day 4 Tuesday – 06 September 16 – Leh

Morning visit the Stok Royal Palace, once the official residence of the Royal family of Ladakh. The museum has an intriguing collection of Buddhist art, weapons, jewellery and artefacts. Afternoon wander round the town of Leh.

Day 5 Wednesday – 07 September 16 – Leh

Morning excursion to the 15th century beautiful Tiksey Monastery situated on a high craggy hill 18km from the town of Leh. A huge seated Maitreya Buddha statue dominates the main prayer hall. Eighty monks are still in residence.

Day 6 Thursday – 08 September 16 – Leh

Then pay a visit to SECMOL school to see the fantastic development project founded by a group of local Ladakhi volunteers with an aim to reform the educational system. Afternoon free

Day 7 Friday – 09 September 16 – To Srinagar

Morning transfer to Leh airport for your flight to Srinagar via Jammu. Transfer to Deluxe Houseboats on Nagin Lake for four nights. Afternoon Shikara ride on the lake.

Day 8 Saturday – 10 September 16 – Srinagar

Drive down to the city of Sriangar visiting Shah Hamadan Mosque- a masterpiece of wood and brick architecture then take a heritage walk through the old city of Srinagar to the fascinating local bazaar at Jamma Masjid. Return to the houseboat for lunch. Afternoon free.

Day 9 Sunday – 11 September 16 – Srinagar

Morning visit the Shankaracharya Temple, standing upon a hill with magnificent views over Srinagar and the Dal Lake. The site dates back to 2500 BC Delightful afternoon sightseeing aboard a ‘Shikara’ – the traditional Lake boat to visit Shalimar Bagh built for Nur Jehan by her husband Jehangir in 1616. Then visit Nishat Bagh and enjoy the beautiful sun-set at Pari Mahal Garden before returning to Houseboats.

Day 10 Monday – 12 September 16 – Srinagar

Morning drive to Gulmarg – “The Meadow of Flowers”. Travel through charming villages with a back drop of Himalayan mountians. Take a ride on the highest cable car in the world to view the stunning mountain scenery. Lunch at Highlands Park Return to houseboat for overnight stay. .

Day 11 Tuesday – 13 September – To Delhi

Fly from Srinagar to Delhi. Overnight stay at The Lalit Grand Hotel.

Day 12 Wednesday – 14 September – To London

Transfer to International airport for direct flight to Heathrow by direct Jet Airways flight.

About the tour leader Joan Pollock

Joan Pollock image

I am a botanist by training, with a PhD in plant physiology and a broader interest in plant ecology. In recent years my focus has been on teaching rather than research and I have taught interdisciplinary science with the UK’s Open University, as well as whole organism biology at Durham University. Teaching at both universities has included running field trips on which students learned about assessing biodiversity, the impact of environmental factors on plant growth and processes such as succession. I am really keen to encourage people to look at how organisms interact with their environment, particularly at a time when we can see that environment changing. I would like to do this in Kasmir and Ladakh by looking at how the vegetation changes with factors such as altitude and rainfall and also at how primary succession allows the colonisation of bare ground. The Himalayas, with their natural beauty and the fact that so many British garden plants have their origins here, make an ideal location for this.

THE COST FROM

  • Per Person on a Double/ Twin share basis £2,650.00
  • Single room supplement £570.00

Cost Includes:

  • International & internal flights in economy class.
  • Accommodation in Leh and on Houseboat with all meals. Breakfast only in Delhi.
  • All transfers and sightseeing by a Toyota Innova Cars and Coach.
  • Entry fee to monuments and places of interest.
  • Entry fee and services of a local English speaking guide.
  • Services of Joan Pollock as Tour Leader
  • Full ATOL & ABTA bonding.

Cost does not include:

  • Visa Fess for India- British passport holders can now obtain an E-Tourist Visa online.
  • Any expenses of a personal nature like laundry, telephone calls, beverages, gratuities etc
  • Travel Insurance.

Travel Insurance

It is essential to have adequate insurance in place before your departure. This should be appropriate for your age, health and destination you are visiting.

Please ensure:

  • It includes comprehensive medical and repatriation cover.
  • It provides cover for your whole trip (whether one day or over a year).
  • It covers you for all activities.
  • Disclose pre-existing medical conditions.
  • Take your policy number and the 24-hour emergency contact numbers with you.
  • If you are making multiple trips we recommend that you take a yearly travel insurance policy.
  • If you have any question about your cover, please check with your insurer.

For a comprehensive travel insurance quote – please click here

How to book this tour

If you wish to book this tour , please compete the booking form, sign and e-mail it to us. A non-refundable deposit of £400.00 per person is needed at the time of booking. Balance payments will be due 8 weeks before departure. You can make the deposit payment by debit card or electronic transfers to our bank. Credit card payment will be charge at 2% extra. Our Bank details are on the booking form. Bookings are confirmed on first come first served basis. When the tour is full we will take about 5 additional names on the waiting list to replace their booking with any cancellations etc.

Click here to download the booking form.

Read our Booking Terms and Conditions