Having travelled all the way to India, nostalgia could lure you into vicariously reliving your childhood The Jungle Book memories through the sub-continent’s many safaris. In fact, it would be a shame to miss. The best thing about India being so unimaginably vast is that it can cater to every individual under the sun.
As sustainable tourism becomes an increasingly heavy focus, with the help of authorities and concerted efforts of animal welfare organisations, some endangered species have been raised to safe numbers to see the continuity of their kind. Rather than a home decor item or a trophy for the wall, the hunt is now for the perfect shot of the majestic animals. Each safari features a specific animal, though not limited. Below we list a few of the many safari experiences India has to offer based on your animal of interest.
Located between Agra and Jaipur, Ranthambhore is one of the most popular amongst tourists as it seamlessly fits into a Golden Triangle itinerary. While a tiger spotting isn’t guaranteed here, there are plenty of others including the sambar and spotted deer you can see on a drive. For a guaranteed sighting and off-the-beaten track consider Pench or Tadoba. At the latter, rather than ‘ifs’ and ‘maybes’, it’s more a matter of how many tigers you’ll see as it holds one of the highest densities of tigers in its area. Pench also offers glamping, where you can rest in comfort and luxury in a gorgeous four poster bed under the open sky in the complete wilderness after a long day of excursions. Without saying, all these parks also have a variety of other animals perusing about.
At the heart of the country, Bandhavgarh is also a popular choice for the best chances to see the great big cat in the wild. A two day safari is likely to reel great sightings, and most see a tiger on the first drive.
Tigers aren’t the only part of the feline family you can spot in India. The Gir Wildlife Sanctuary has the last wild Asiatic Lions in the world. Located in Gujarat, inland from the beaches of Diu (where these big cats sometimes traipse the shores), the entrance of the park is located at Sasan Gir village, where the park reception and orientation center is. Three hour jeep rides take you round the reserve at certain timings, and apart from the lions, there are almost 40 other animals there including the antelopes and gazelles.
There is also a Gir Interpretation Zone, also known as Devalia Safari Park, about 12 kilometers west of the village. It is an enclosed area that contains a variety of wildlife, including the lions, and a bus takes visitors on a 30-40 minute tour of it.
Gir is open from mid October to mid June while Devalia is open all year round. Do note that all visitors must obtain an e-permit that can only be reserved online (to prevent frauds). Be sure to book in advance (3 months at the earliest, 48hrs at the latest) as there is a vehicle cap of 30 at all times in the park. Permits are issued per vehicle with up to six occupants. Weekends and public holidays are the most expensive and crowded, and are hence best avoided. This excludes costs for an accompanying guide, a jeep and an exorbitant DSLR camera charge. Foreign tourists are also charged more than local tourists. There are 8 safari routes in total with different entries and exits, all of which are randomly assigned with a driver and guide when you present your permit at the entrance. Read more about the terms and conditions here and reviews about the park here.
(cc: FAKIRA RIDERS)
Another star of Indian safaris are the one-horned rhinoceros, mostly found in Kaziranga National Park in Assam. The prehistoric looking creatures foam the grasslands along with elephants in this 430 km² space. Watch the video above and admire the serenity of these solitary animals, though it is not uncommon to see several grazing together when food is abundant.
India is known for its elephants, especially in the southern states. Nagarhole is one of India’s premier elephant reserves and can be explored by jeep, boat or the elephant’s back! Often, herds of elephants are spotted on the river bank playing or cooling down in the waters. While there are, unfortunately, some elephant camps that still chain the gentle giants and force them to perform in circuses, there are ethical ones around the country that not only allow you to interact with them but truly care for the well-being of the elephants. Such places include Elefantastic in Jaipur, Smiling Tusker Elephant Camp in Assam and Kipling Camp where Tera, one of India’s most famous elephants resides.
Broadly speaking, March to May are the best time to sight wildlife, though temperatures tend to be on the high side in May and this is also the peak season for tourists. The animals tend to gather around water sources as the weather gets hotter and drier. Monsoon season falls from June to September, post monsoon (also hot) October to November before winter comes in December (still relatively warm in tropical settings).
It’s best to set out for drives in the early mornings, as you get to make the most of your journey and it is also when the animals are most active! The animals seem to be very much into siestas, and don’t move around too much come mid afternoon. These parks not only offer unspoiled wilderness but also the tranquility of interacting with nature and the animals.
But… here is one last tour that is slightly unconventional but extremely exciting!
Yes! Sand dunes, extends of barren land and most importantly, the camels!
(cc JASON BILLAM TRAVEL)
The most popular place for camel safaris is the desert around Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, particularly the Thar Desert. The more peaceful and lesser-known Osian sand dunes also boast a profile of interesting temples, killing two birds with one stone. There are also overnight safaris offered if you feel extra adventurous. It’s best to go during the cooler dry months of September to March, after which it becomes unbearably hot in the summers. Prices can range a huge gap, and generally you get what you pay for, but getting to see the humps and hoofs (often with a side of character!) is the most valuable of it all. Be sure to take care when booking a camel safari, and make sure you use reliable specialist agencies. Many complain that long rides can result in sore legs and bums, so do your research and bring the comfortable padded clothing.
With all that being said, you should be ready for an adventure of a lifetime. Nothing is more rewarding than this once in a lifetime experience!