National Parks in India make for an ideal escape from the urban chaos we all live in. There’s something unique about the calm and peace that being in a forest can bring. They also are an excellent place to visit with your family. The thrill of being on a safari in one of these wildlife sanctuaries in India is memorable.
I have collaborated with Travel Bloggers to talk about their experience of a wildlife safari in India. Hope this inspires you to take a trip to the forest soon!
Gujarat: Gir National Park
Have you heard a lion roar in the wild?
I assure you it is not something you will forget in a jiffy.
And while looking at the fierce stare of a mother lion sitting with her cubs, you are bound to blink first!
Gir National Park is a wildlife sanctuary in Gujarat. Set up to protect Asiatic lions, it has been one of the more successful conversation efforts in the country. This is the only place in India where you can see lions roaming in the wild. Besides the ‘big cat’ population – more than 400 lions and about 300 leopards, Gir also has other wildlife like chital, nilgai, chousingha, chinkara and wild boar.
With more than 400 lions in this national park in India, chances of spotting one during your morning or afternoon safari are quite high. In the off-chance that you don’t get to see any, there is a compromise. Gir Interpretation Zone or what is commonly known as Devalia Safari Park is an eco-tourism zone. This large fenced area – while not an open dense forest as the Gir – does provide an opportunity for viewing lions and other animals in their natural habitat at cheaper rates. There is a standard bus tour that takes you around the Devalia Park.
We had an enjoyable family weekend getaway in January to Gir. We had taken a flight to Rajkot, and then a taxi to Gir. The Gateway Hotel Gir located at the fringe of the forest had proved to be a comfortable option for our family holiday. The culturally-inclined in the family had combined this with a day trip to Somnath Temple, a 1.5 hr drive away from Gir.
There are several budget stay options both inside and outside the forest area. December to March is the best time to visit this national park in India.
For more information, visit Gir National Park.
Karnataka: Kabini National Park/Nagarhole Tiger Reserve
A wildlife safari in Karnataka’s Kabini is truly extraordinary, it is akin to East Africa as wildlife sightings are rich and fairly common.
Its call to fame is:
- The elephants that congregate in the hundreds during the summer months to eat the grass from the bottom of the dried up Kabini reservoir, which they consider as the sweetest dessert.
- It has rare Black Panther sightings and frequent Spotted Leopard sightings. The picture of leopards eating their kill on the top of a tree is part of Kabini’s legend.
- It has pack hunters, the wild dogs or dhole that roams these parts in huge numbers.
- And finally, it’s tiger population is one of the highest in the country.
Whether you are on a jeep safari covering Nagarhole Tiger Reserve or on a boat safari covering the Kabini reservoir, you are bound to encounter India’s wild denizens in good numbers. These could be mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and much more.
Kabini has its Big Six – Tiger, Leopard, Elephant, Wild Dog (Dhole), Gaur and Smooth Otters.
While these are definitely treasured sightings in the wild, Kabini offers much more – from Grey Langur and Grey Jungle Fowl to Crested Serpent Eagle and the colourful Indian roller, from the Sambar deer and the sloth bear to the Darter and wild boar.
One of the few national parks that are open all year round, including the monsoon season, Kabini allows you to see the changing colors of the jungle along with the evolving behaviour of its wild citizens. This means you can spot an elephant in musth (mating heat) scratching up on a tree trunk and throwing up mud, you could see the mating of tigers and/or leopards, daily territory markings especially after the rains, nests of birds and sometimes even the young ones.
No better than Kabini national park in India to go on a jungle overdrive holiday!
For more information, visit Nagarhole National Park.
Kerala: Periyar National Park
Periyar National Park – aka Periyar Tiger Reserve – is a beautiful patch of protected land in the southern state of Kerala. Visiting this national park is as simple as finding your way to Thekkady; about a 3-hour journey from Kochi.
Here in this 925 sq km of reserve, you’ll find deer, gaur, wild boar, leopard, monkey, wild dog and more! Although it’s definitely notable for being an elephant and tiger reserve. It was set up to protect the free-ranging populations of Asian elephants as well as the estimated 40 tigers that are said to be in the park.
Now, the difficult thing is that seeing these animals can be rather difficult 🙂 The biodiverse landscapes are rather hilly and entirely covered in vegetation, making animals spotting a real challenge – but don’t fret!
The most common way to travel through this park is via boat cruise on the Periyar Lake. Although if you really feel like getting in the midst of the action, there are nature walks, bamboo rafting and even eco-lodges to stay in.
For me, I chose to take the earliest cruise of the day which departed at 7.30 AM. Spotting animals is done from a distance, but that certainly doesn’t sacrifice on experience. During this one-hour boat cruise, I was lucky enough to spot a leopard (that hadn’t been seen for over 7 months) a pack of wild dog, wild boar, gaur and a mother and baby elephant!
It was magical – to say the very least. And regardless of the number of animals I spotted, being surrounded by this diverse landscape in this amzing wildlife sanctuary was perfect enough in itself!
For more information, visit Periyar National Park.
Madhya Pradesh, one of the largest states, also boasts of the maximum number of national parks in India. Bandhavgarh and Kanha also offer one of the best chances to spot a tiger on a wildlife safari.
Bandhavgarh National Park
I love coming back again and again to the “Heart of India”, for its rich wilderness.
When it comes to the wildlife safaris in those gorgeous jungles situated in the state, my happiness knows no bounds.
I was fortunate enough to join Taj Safaris in exploring Bandhavgarh National Park. The experience was incredible. Being a nature admirer, I feel blessed whenever I get an opportunity to be in the forest and I don’t really think too much about the wild animals.
Exploring wildlife in the Bandhavgarh National Park was undoubtedly a unique experience. It was my very first time here and my day started at 5 am. Travelling in a jeep, taking those winding roads on a hilly terrain was the most exciting part of this safari.
The landscape of Bandhavgarh National Park is quite intriguing as there are steep rocky hills, flat hilltops and well-spread grassland meadows inside the forest. I spotted a few peacocks, spotted dears, and a couple of birds.
But the most dramatic sight for me was when I spotted a Tigress and her cubs resting behind the bushes. I was very excited catching a glimpse of her and happy that I was able to capture her through my lens.
I never knew that my luck would bring me closer to the tiger on the next day as well. It was completely unexpected to spot any tiger in those bamboo forests in Khitauli zone. I could not believe this rare sight of the Tiger. It will remain the most cherished wildlife safari of my life.
For more information, visit Bandhavgarh National Park.
Kanha National Park
The largest national park in the state of Madhya Pradesh, Kanha is a pleasure to visit for not just its fauna but the variety of flora as well. The early morning safaris treat you to lush green forests that give way to golden grasslands spotted around by large lakes. Lurking amidst these are its famous tigers that are quite well known by their names.
When I visited the park, I was quite amused by the tiger tales that the locals have to share about the animals. Munna the tiger is the most photographed tiger – for he has stripes on his forehead that are shaped like the letters CAT. People actually stay back and do more safaris just to get a glimpse of him. Kaanphata, another tiger is known for his missing ear that he lost in a fight. Every day the Rangers will have news that will keep you entertained throughout the three-hour safari.
Equally famous in Kanha, are the rare Barasinghas with their gorgeous antlers.
These are not so difficult to spot on a safari and you will definitely spot at least one male and a female one. While you go looking out for them, you will definitely encounter some sloth bears, jackals, langurs, peacocks, spotted deer, sambar deer and a large variety of birds including species of egrets, hornbills, drongos and even owls.
The Kanha National park is so huge that a single day of two safaris might not seem enough. It is recommended that you stay here for at least 3 days to enjoy the amazing sights it has to offer.
There are plenty of resorts and hotels who have set up a base in Kanha and finding a good one is not so much of a problem. However, given that only a limited number of vehicles are allowed each day within Kanha, it is best to book your safari spot well in advance.
For more information, visit Kanha National Park.
Satpura National Park
Satpura National Park is one of the most beautiful national parks in India. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most underrated and less frequented wildlife sanctuaries in India.
Satpura National Park is offbeat and thus it is not a victim of crass commercialization and unchecked development. Though the National Park has modern amenities and luxury resorts, it is still not subjected to an overkill.
What makes it unique is that to arrive at the entry gate one has to cross the voluptuous Denwa river.
The boat ride, especially a sunrise is picturesque and offers great views in whichever direction you set your eye.
Satpura National Park is rich in flora and fauna. Though it is not impossible to spot tiger and leopard, I easily spotted the sloth bear, gaurs, crocodiles, sambar and spotted deer. Also watch out for termite mounds, some of which are huge.
The national park also has many interesting trees such as the ghost tree. On the full moon night the white bark of the tree shines, hence the name. It is a deciduous forest punctuated with water bodies like lakes, ponds, water streams, and ravines. The Satpura hills enhance its beauty further.
Reaching Sapura National Park is easy. The nearest big city is Bhopal, which is well connected to major Indian cities via bus, train, and flight. My advice is to book a cab from Bhopal to Satpura National Park. The closest railway stations are Piparia and Sohagpur. The best time to go is from October to 15th June.
You can also club the trip with Pachmarhi. It is the only hill station of Madhya Pradesh and a part of Pachmarhi Biosphere Preserve.
For more information, visit Satpura National Park.
Maharashtra: Tadoba National Park
The idea of setting out on a safari into wee hours of the morning, to be welcomed by the morning calls of hundreds of different birds and animals, the rising mist in the air, seeing trees and greens for as far as the eyes can roam, the pollution-free air and the smell of nature around, are just some of the reasons that I ensure a visit to jungle once a year.
Having been to about 10 jungles in India, one of my favourite by far is Tadoba in Chandrapur, Maharashtra. Not only is it easily accessible from Mumbai – a short flight to Nagpur and less than 2 hours to Chandrapur thereafter – Tadoba also has a healthy population of tigers and abundant flora, fauna & other wildlife.
I must admit, my motivation when I first visited Tadoba was to spot the striped cat. I still vividly remember one of my morning safaris in Tadoba. We were driving through the jungle when our driver stopped the car to show us paw marks and told us that the tiger possibly crossed this path.
A few minutes later, as we turned into one of the bylanes, the driver pulled the breaks hard and the car stopped with a screech. There she was, right in front of us! The tigress, startled with all the commotion decided to go walk past us and sit right behind our vehicle.
Deep orange and black stripes.. a radio collar in her neck.. a muscular body.. her canines.. a large tigress who looked straight into our eyes.
What followed for the next 20 minutes was the trailing tigress behind our jeep as we kept moving forward clicking countless pictures and videos for a sighting that I would never forget! Although being in a jungle is an experience in itself, spotting the tiger in the wild will skip your beat like you cannot imagine!
When planning a trip to Tadoba, there are many resorts to choose from – Svasara or Irai Safari Resort in the luxury segment to MTDC and Royal Tiger Resort in the budget segment. Whichever resort you choose, do ensure that they are closer to the gate to avoid extra travel time.
Most resorts offer safari bookings, either as part of your package or on extras, I suggest you do that given that most of the online booking gets sold way in advance. Spend at least a few nights and do 4-6 safaris to increase your chances of a sighting.
Last but not the very least, respect the jungle and the rules – it’s somebody’s home too 🙂
For more information, visit Tadoba National Park.
Rajasthan: Ranthambore National Park
It was my first ever Tiger safari and in the sweltering heat of Western India, my eyes scoured the jungle for a speck of the orange and black coat. I had never seen a tiger in the wild.
As I gazed at the spotted deer grazing in the meadows, suddenly the guide heard a warning.
The call of the peacock. A tiger was near.
Within minutes I saw the majestic cat. Krishna lazed off in the meadows by the lake and my heart jumped in joy. The tigress guarded her prey, a wild boar and photographers went crazy! The gait, the strides it took left me in awe.
Next day we were off again. 3 hours and no luck. But the forest was beautiful with all its beauty. We saw a mongoose and the guide proclaimed it’s a lucky sign. This time I hoped I could see the tiger in the eye. As if the universe conspired it, there was another chance encounter.
A tigress again, Noor. She came straight out of the bushes, looking for something. I whispered in my mind, “Look at me, look at me!” And voila!
She looked. This time straight in my eye. My heart skipped a beat. That piercing glare! I couldn’t sleep that night.
The next morning as I left for the safari, I was still under the hangover of the last tiger sighting. The guide jokingly said, “Today, the Tigers are on a holiday!” I laughed and blurted, “No today we will see 3!”. And no prizes for guessing. We DID see three. Three tigers in one hour. We saw them fight, growl, laze around, mark their territory and trot about.
I have seen many tigers since then. Each sighting is special. But this one at Ranthambore National Park will always be the closest to my heart!
You can drive down or take a train to Swai Madhopur to access Ranthambore National Park. Jaipur airport is the closest to this park.
For more information, visit Ranthambore National Park.
I leave you with this quote –
Humanity can no longer stand by in silence while our wildlife are being used, abused and exploited.
It is time we all stand together, to be the voice of the voiceless before it’s too late. Extinction means forever.
– Paul Oxton
If you are looking for more weekend getaways or short trips in India, do look at –
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Which is your favourite wildlife experience in India? Share with us in the comments below.
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