TRAVEL: YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED BY OUR PANEL OF EXPERTS

Tiger treks

It is my lifetime ambition to see a tiger in the wild - in India preferably. Are there travel companies that can help me accomplish this? I sponsor a tiger with the World Wildlife Fund and wonder if they could possibly arrange this?

Mrs M Bullard

Basildon, Essex The Travel Editor replies: The World Wildlife Fund sponsors tigers in the Royal Bardia National Park in Nepal, but unfortunately the organisation does not arrange trips there and it is quite tricky to organise an independent trip to Bardia at all.

Safari Consultants (tel: 01787 228494) are specialists in tailor-made trips to Nepal and can organise a 10-day trip to the park, with three nights in Kathmandu and five nights at Bardia (three nights at Karnali Jungle Lodge and two nights at Karnali Tented Camp), including accommodation, food, flights and transfers as well as activities on safari, such as elephant- back safaris, nature walks, game drives and rafting trips on the Karnali river. This tour costs from pounds 1,450 per person.

There are lots of organised group tours to India's Tiger Parks. The following national parks are recommended for tiger safaris: Ramthambore (Rajasthan, north-west India), Bandhavgarh and Kanha (both in Madhya Pradesh, central- north India). November to May is the best time to visit, with parks often closed over the summer monsoon.

Travelbag Adventures (tel: 01420 541007) offers a 15-day Tigers and Ganges tour, staying three nights at Bandhavgarh park with visits to other Indian tourist attractions. It costs around pounds 1,100, including accommodation, all food, flights, transfers and game drives. The Imaginative Traveller (tel: 0181-742 3113) offers a two-week Tiger Country Tour, visiting Ramthambore (three days), Kanha (three days) and the Bharatpur wetland bird sanctuary for pounds 1,075, based on two people sharing, again including flights, accommodation, meals, transfers and safari costs.

The best time to go tiger-watching in Nepal is between late February and mid-April when you have an 80 to 90 per cent chance of spotting one. At this time, the high monsoon-fed grasses have died down or been cut back by villagers who harvest from February onwards, and although October and November are recommended for trekking, mists at this time are bad news for spotting tigers.

Less well known than Chitwan National Park, Bardia in the remote west of Nepal is one of the best places in the world to see tigers and one of the nation's hidden secrets. Other wildlife in the park also make it worth the trip: elephant, Indian one-horned rhino, leopard, various deer, small game, sloth bear, Gangetic dolphins (found in the Karnali river), marsh muggers and gharial (crocodiles), and more than 350 species of birds.

Drinking water

Any advice on how best to cope with water in Asia. Should we drink it, get sick, then get used to it? Or should we try to purify it all the way?

Janet Reynolds

Hertfordshire

Dr Larry Goodyer replies: To get things into perspective, you are more likely to get diarrhoea from eating dodgy food than by drinking infected water. But you are quite right to be cautious about the water supply in many parts of Asia, and Nepal has a particularly bad reputation.

It is true that once you have had a bout of traveller's diarrhoea, subsequent attacks are less likely, due to the development of some immunity against the organisms responsible. Unfortunately, such immunity only develops to certain of the organisms, so good food and water hygiene should be observed throughout the trip. Drinking untreated water in order to get used to it would therefore not be recommended.

Those going away for longer trips should not reach out for antibiotics at the first sign of diarrhoea in order to develop some immunity, but even longer-term expatriates residing in developing countries are advised to observe the same sort of precautions recommended to tourists.

Use bottled, preferably carbonated, drinks and water where possible. Otherwise, boiling for five minutes is the method for sterilising. Hot drinks that have been boiled are also okay, so the tea boiled up together with milk in India is fine. One tip, though, is to have it served in your own clean mug or cup. Carry some chemical water treatment as a standby.

Dr Larry Goodyer is a lecturer in clinical pharmacy at King's College, London. Contact the Nomad Travel Health Helpline (tel: 0891 633 414; calls cost 60 pence per minute).

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