Welcome to India! You will arrive in Delhi for the start of your program.
Work with Wildlife SOS to improve the lives of rescued sloth bears and Asian Elephants in Agra. Experience an incredible Indian wildlife adventure and participate in animal conservation and rehabilitation practices. Shop in bazaars, visit marble workshops, and dance in a snake charming village. End your program with a sunrise visit to the Taj Mahal.
Meet up with your group in Newark and board a comfortable non-stop flight to Delhi, India, and start getting to know your fellow travelers. You’ll be escorted by a Rustic Pathways flight leader to India.
Following the flight to India, clear customs and be met by your program leaders, who will take you to your quiet and comfortable hotel, where you can freshen up before getting a great night of sleep.
As you head through the streets of Delhi, sink in the first sights of India. You’ve just arrived in a land of 1.2 billion people, home to every major religion in the world and a dizzying variety of histories and languages, and one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Welcome to incredible India!
After a buffet breakfast and an introduction to your group, 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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Tonight your group will visit a marble factory, hunt for bargains in the night bazaar and enjoy dinner out in Agra.
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.
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!
On this special evening, head to a local village and interact with the Kalandar community to understand how their lives have changed after they stopped working as dancing bear handlers, and see them perform a traditional dance. Rejoice with your group, Wildlife SOS, and Kalendar community, in the collaborative effort and mission to help create a better India.
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.
After the inspiring show head to breakfast with your group and get ready to depart to Delhi. Bid goodbye to your friends at Wildlife SOS and make the drive back up to Delhi, where you will spend the afternoon relaxing around a pool at a South Delhi resort, sharing your stories with Rustic Pathways groups from other India programs. After a final farewell dinner, head to the airport to catch your flight home or head to the hotel if you are connecting to another program in India!
Arrive back in the United States and share your new knowledge of sloth bears, Asian Elephants, and human-wildlife conflict. Continue your service by spreading awareness of what your experience was like this summer. Thanks for helping spread positive energy in India and for your hard work with us this summer!
Rustic Pathways reserves the right to change, alter, or amend the daily itinerary for this trip at any time. Changes can be made for various reasons including changes in flight or program schedules, changes in the schedules of various external tours incorporated in our trips, the addition of new activities into a trip, or the substitution of an old activity for a new activity.
The itinerary shown here provides a good outline of the anticipated daily schedule for this program. As with any travel program, some changes may occur.
“Optional Activities” are fully included in the cost of your program, but you can choose to not do these activities.
“Add-On Activities” are not included in the cost of your program and must be paid for separately. Add-on activities are rare, but include things like skydiving, bungee jumping, or weekend side-trips. Not every program has add-on activities.
For more information, email email@example.com
This program connects seamlessly to all other programs in India and Asia. All of our Asia programs begin and end on Thursday, which allows for easy connectivity.
A tourist visa is required for all students traveling to India. Students are responsible for obtaining their own visa. Rustic Pathways will provide important details relating to the visa process in the Spring. If you would like information or would like to view the visa requirements, please visit the Government of India website at https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/tvoa.html.
Yes, there will be a flight leader on the direct flight from Newark, New Jersey (USA) to New Delhi, India. If a student is connecting from another country, they will not have a flight leader. In such instances, we will provide students with detailed instructions on navigating airports, immigrations, and customs and will have a Rustic Pathways staff member waiting at the arrival airport to pick them up.
The direct flight from Newark, New Jersey to New Delhi, India is 14 hours.
Yes. Please note that this program is 7 days in length, with international travel times on each end, making it 9 days total outside of the United States.
During Dancing Bear Rescue Project, students will spend the majority of their time in the state of Rajasthan. Students will spend five days in the city of Agra. Students will also spend two days in New Delhi, at the beginning and end of the trip.
Each program will have leaders who are certified in First Aid and CPR. Some of our program leaders are also certified as Wilderness First Responders, Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), Wilderness EMTs, or Life Guards.
Rustic Pathways India programs maintain a minimum of 1 Program Leader for every 6 students. Additionally, each program maintains at least 2 primary program leaders, one male and one female.
Rustic Pathways uses sterilization techniques to ensure that all drinking water for students is potable and safe to drink. We ask students to bring reusable water bottles in order to reduce plastic usage.
Students are allowed to bring phones on their Rustic Pathways program, but must abide by our cell phone policy. Students will not be allowed to use their phones during group activities, nor at any other time where it is disruptive to the group dynamic. If students are unable to abide by this policy, disciplinary action may be taken.
Electricity in India runs at 230V and electrical outlets are a mix between http://electricaloutlet.org/type-c Type C and http://electricaloutlet.org/type-d Type D. We recommend purchasing one or two Type C adaptors (as these can also be used in Type D outlets).
Summer in India is monsoon season! Temperatures on the plains (Delhi, Agra) can reach 110 F (43 C) with high humidity. Rain can be a daily, and welcome, occurrence. Please make sure you have the required clothing on the packing list!
In Agra students will be staying in shared apartment close to the sloth bear rescue facility. In Delhi, students will stay in a comfortable hotel in the Karol Bagh area of New Delhi. Students will sleep 2-3 to a room, separated by gender.
Students will eat a mix of Indian, Chinese, and Western dishes. Indian food generally consists of rice, dals (lentils), curries, and roti (flatbread).
Bathroom facilities range from bucket showers and squat toilets with no hot water, to western style showers and toilets with constant supply of hot water.
Students will have very limited access to internet and telephones while on the program. These services are only available in Delhi, and only for short periods of time, as we are very busy on the program.
Students will have opportunities to hand wash laundry once or twice during the week. Alternatively, students can get their laundry washed for them in Delhi. The cost is approximately $10 per load.
According to the Center for Disease Control, malaria transmission is possible for all locations this program visits. Dengue, chikungunia, and rabies are also present in areas this program visits.
Please consult with a travel doctor or your family physician for immunization and other medical recommendations, based on the area(s) where you will be traveling and on your own medical history. In addition to consulting with a medical professional, please visit the International SOS and Centers for Disease Control websites for country specific information around immunizations and traveler’s health. Please let us know if you have specific questions.
International SOS is one of the world’s leading providers of medical evacuation and travel services. All participants traveling with Rustic Pathways will have access to International SOS benefits through Rustic Pathways’ membership.
As a member you will have access to SOS’s extensive travel information database to help you make informed decisions prior to travel. Additionally, all travelers who travel outside their country of residence will have access to medical evacuation support during their program. For more information please visit our International SOS webpage.
Hospitals with western-standard facilities are available within a thirty minute drive in Delhi and a forty five minute drive in Agra.
If you are vegetarian, you are in luck! India is one of the most vegetarian friendly places in the world. Vegan, lactose free, and gluten free diets can also be accommodated. If you have other dietary restrictions, please contact Team India at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students with mild allergies to nuts can be accommodated on this program. If you have any severe allergies, please let us know. We will work with you to determine the best program choices.
Mosquitoes are present in all areas this program visits. Most bites occur at dawn and dusk, and students are encouraged to wear long sleeves, long pants, and DEET based insect repellent at these times of day.
Personal gifts, internet, phone calls, and snacks are not included. All other costs (accommodation, meals, in-country transportation, and activities) are included in the program price.
We recommend bringing $100 – 200 (USD) per week for spending money.
Yes, students will receive up to 30 hours of community service on this program. Please refer to our Community Service Hour Awards webpage for more information on how service hours are awarded.
Rustic Pathways works directly with Wildlife SOS to identify and select the community service projects. While in Agra students will work on a variety of environmental service projects such as the construction of enrichment materials for sloth bears, behavior monitoring, and cleaning of bear pens.
Although generally domesticated, sloth bears can still be dangerous animals. Students will not have direct physical contact with any sloth bears during the program. Students will have the opportunity to wash elephants by hand.
Packing the right gear (and the right amounts) is the first step to an incredible travel experience. Follow these tips to pack like a pro:
Travel light. Pack only the essentials. You’ll need less than you think!
Bring the right clothes. Pack clothes that are culturally appropriate for your destination and acceptable for service projects. This means bringing lightweight pants, t-shirts with sleeves to cover shoulders, and appropriate footwear.
Leave your valuables behind. While traveling, it’s easier for things to get lost, stolen, or damaged. Keep any prized possessions safe at home.
Check with TSA. Make sure your luggage complies with TSA regulations, especially your carry-on. Useful tip: Pack an empty water bottle and fill it up after security.
Extra paperwork? If you need additional forms filled out to get credit for your service hours, no problem! Bring these forms with you so they can be completed in-country.
A school backpack is ideal as it will be used on the program for day trips.
A 50-70 Liter duffel back or backpack is ideal.
Please pack neutral, earthy colors for the program. Very bright or fluorescent colors are not allowed while working in the rescue facility.
Welcome to India! You will arrive in Delhi for the start of your program.
Settle into the WSOS volunteer quarters in Agra, home to the Agra Bear Rescue Facility and the Taj Mahal!