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Safari & Wildlife

The sheer size, scale & diversity of India provides innumerable opportunities for viewing wildlife; the 80 National Parks together with over 400 wildlife sanctuaries help to support many eco-systems totalling some 65,000 species of fauna, including over 400 mammals species and 1250 bird species.

What you might expect to see and where: 

Beautiful exotic birds can be spotted, all colours of the rainbow; migratory, resident and endemic, can be seen throughout the country as you travel.  However, visit the numerous bird sanctuaries such as Keoladeo in Rajasthan and Kumarakom in Kerala to make sure that you are not disappointed. 
More on birdwatching...

Monkeys – sacred in the Hindu relgion.  Langur monkeys with black & white faces, and macaques (red bottoms) are commonly seen around temples and ruins in large numbers, generally causing mischief.

The Indian elephant and camels (or more accurately dromedaries) are common sights in Rajasthan. Either ‘trained’ to allow tourists that sought-after ride or working animals on farms and in the forests, these animals are a wonder in any capacity. Elephants, due to their religious significance, are beautifully dressed and painted and are often seen in processions and ceremonies.

Reptiles – crocodiles and snakes are common in many places in India and Olive Ridley turtles arrive en mass to lay their eggs annually on a beach in the state of Orissa.

Numerous species of deer & antelope can be spotted in India's countryside, including the mighty sambar deer with its far-reaching antlers, chital (spotted deer), barking deer, and black buck especially common in the semi-desert around Jodhpur; guar (wild buffalo), wild boar and perhaps even the sloth bear can be spotted in protected forests, if you are lucky.

India is home to several now endangered species; the one-horned rhinoceros lives only in protected wildlife sanctuaries in Assam, and the Asiatic lion in the plains of Gujerat.

Last but not least, tigers…At 100 lbs heavier than its ‘King of the Jungle’ cousin, the tiger is an awesome, unforgettable sight.  Usually solitary animals, except for females with cubs, males clearly mark out their own territories, overlapping those of several females.  Experienced guides and trackers operating in the established Wildlife Reserves will lead you to your heart-stopping moment.  Prepare for very chilly, teeth chattering morning starts, and bring plenty of patience.

Name State What To See When To Go Where To Stay
Ranthambore National Park Rajasthan Tigers, Sloth Bears, Leopard, Jackal Open: October - June Sher Bagh
Kanha National Park Madhya Pradesh Tiger, Rare Deer, Sloth Bear, Hyena, Monkey, Leopard Open: November - June Shergarh
Nagarahole National Park Karnataka Tiger, Leopard, Panther, Sloth Bear, Elephant, Sambhar Open: All Year Cicada Kabini River Lodge
Corbett National Park Uttaranchal Tiger, Leopard, Elephant, Crocodile, Sloth Bear, Wild Dog Open: November - June Corbett Hideaway
Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary Kerala Waterfowl, Cuckoo, Owl, Egret, Heron, Water Duck Open: All Year (but visit between June and August for best viewing) Kumarakom Lake Resort
Keoladeo Bird Sanctuary Rajasthan Herons, Pelicans, Kingfishers, Egrets, Cormorants, Kites, Eagles, Hawks Open: All Year (but visit between August and September for best viewing) The Bagh, Laxmi Vilas Palace
Desert Rajasthan Dromedaries (camels), Black Buck (antelope), Demosielle Cranes November - March Luxury tented camps


NB: Many other areas including the Wayanad & Thekkady in Kerala which are not necessarily well-known wildlife ‘destinations’ offer interesting flora and fauna for a worthy trip.

NB: Don’t visit Sariska Tiger Reserve in the hope of seeing tigers; rather embarrassingly for the authorities and despite its name, there are sadly no longer any tigers to be found. 

Hints & tips for safari:

• Wear khaki, browns and neutral colours (avoid any bright colours)
• Bring layers for chilly early mornings and hats, suncream & sunglasses for later 
• Avoid strong smelling perfumes
• Patience is a virtue – jeep safaris are perhaps not suitable for children under 8 
• A knowledgeable guide and camera to snap that memorable shot are a must

The best time for safaris is early morning or late afternoon when the animals are at their most active (typically 6am and 3pm for approx 4 hours). Walking safaris with a knowledgeable guide can be highly rewarding,

Permits are usually required to visit and many of the national parks are closed during the mating season coinciding with the monsoon, generally 1st July – 30th September.

Finally, for a ‘different’ wildlife experience head for the scared Rat Temple near Bikaner. Not for the faint hearted as you walk (sockless) amongst literally hundreds of scurrying rats but keep your eyes peeled for the auspicious white rat.