India: Wildlife Destinations
Kaziranga National Park
Kaziranga's star species: Indian greater one-horned rhino • Asian elephant
Thick swathes of swamp, elephant grass, reedbed and forest crowd the banks of the Brahmaputra River in this remote wildlife-rich gem. Your chances of sighting a tiger are quite slim, but this is the place to view Indian greater one-horned rhinoceros – nearly 80% of the world’s population of around 2,500 lives here. Large herds of elephant and buffalo are also present, along with sambar, swamp and hog deer. The birdlife is excellent, with migratory bar-headed geese joining resident pelicans, Brahminy kites and Pallas’s fish eagles. The nearby Panabari Forest Reserve is a refuge for the elusive hoolock gibbon, India’s only ape.
Getting there Directions Located in Assam, Kaziranga is 220km from Guwahati.
Getting around 4WD vehicles and elephants.
When to go Open November to April; March and April are best.
Things to do Jeep and elephant-back safaris, observation towers.
Places to stay Five nearby lodges, including Bonhabi Resort, a short walk from the park’s main entrance, and the more upmarket Diphlu River Lodge with air-conditioned thatched cottages-on-stilts.
Ranthambhore National Park
Ranthambhore's star species: Tiger • Sloth bear • Wild dog (dhole) • Spotted deer (chital)
Rajasthan’s premier wildlife reserve is famed for its tigers, scenery and history: rolling hills, dry dhok forest and tranquil lakes, crumbling ruins of Moghul temples and an 11th-century hilltop fort. Tiger numbers are not what they used to be, but you still stand a fairly good chance of spotting the big cat. Common species like rhesus macaque, wild boar, sambar and chital are almost guaranteed, and the birdlife is sensational. There are parakeets and peacocks galore, along with other colourful species, such as coppersmith barbet, purple sunbird and golden oriole.
Getting there 300km southeast of Delhi, easily reached by train.
Getting around Jeep safaris depart morning and afternoon.
When to go October to June.
Things to do Jeep safaris.
Places to stay Wide range of accommodation nearby, including the luxury tented camps like Jungle Niwas and Ranthambhore Bagh.
Satpura National Park
Satpura's star species: Sloth bear • Dhole • Blackbuck • Marsh mugger crocodile • Leopard • Tiger
This little-visited park may not have the most readily seen tigers in India, but it is unique in offering a full safari experience that includes game walks, boat trips, elephant-back rides, birdwatching ambles, nocturnal hides and visits to local communities, as well as jeep safaris. Covering 524 sq km of rugged hills, gouged by monsoonal ravines and cloaked in teak forest, Satpura is also one of India’s most beautiful reserves.
During a boat trip on the Tawa Reservoir, you can watch marsh mugger crocodiles, spoonbills, storks and egrets against the hazy backdrop of the Satpura Range. The dry riverbed of the Sonbhadra Valley is a good place to search on foot for signs of tiger and sloth bear, while walking safaris across the plains and woodlands near the park headquarters may lead to encounters with packs of dhole. Blackbuck, chital, langur and wild gaur are common, while leopard are frequently spotted on game drives. Elephant safaris, meanwhile, allow you to track tigers in remote parts of the forest.
Getting there Located 180km southeast of Bhopal in Central India.
Getting around You enter the park by crossing the Tawa reservoir.
When to go October to April.
Things to do Jeep, elephant-back and walking safaris, boat trips.
Places to stay Forsyth’s Lodge offers comfortable accommodation just outside Satpura National Park. Its 12 earthen cottages are arranged around a main lodge building with terraces looking towards the hills. There’s a swimming pool, cosy lounge and a hide for spotting palm civet, jungle cat and other nocturnal wildlife that frequents the surrounding woodland. The lodge works with park management to recruit and train local people as naturalist guides, jeep drivers and boatmen.
Corbett National Park
Over 1,300 sq km of forest and grassland tucked into the Himalayan foothills, Corbett National Park is home to a wide variety of Indian wildlife, including tiger, Asian elephant, spotted deer and gharial crocodile. Originally established in 1936 as Hailey National Park, Corbett was renamed in 1955-56 after the legendary hunter-turned- conservationist, Jim Corbett.
Getting there The park headquarters, Ramnagar has a direct train from New Delhi. Alternatively, it’s a 240km road journey.
When to go Corbett NP is open November to mid June, although October to April is best for wildlife watching as this is when leaves fall and grasses wither, improving visibility.
Places to stay Dhikala Forest Rest House overlooks Patli Dun valley and offers no-frills accommodation in the heart of the national park. Lodges and hotels are located outside the park.
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wildlife travel essentials: India
Delhi and Mumbai are major hubs, served by national carrier Air India and numerous other airlines. The easiest way to book tickets for Indian Railways is online at cleartrip.com. Hiring a car with a driver/guide is also straightforward. Various domestic airlines, such as SpiceJet and IndiGo offer low-cost internal flights.
African safari specialist &Beyond offers India’s first and only wildlife circuit, staying at its four luxury jungle safari lodges in Madhya Pradesh. Other local operators include Tigerland Safaris. Of the numerous overseas specialists, Exodus, Naturetrek and TransIndus have some of the best itineraries.
WHEN TO GO
Wildlife watching is generally best from October to April when leaves fall and grasses wither (improving visibility) and water sources recede, concentrating animals around waterholes.
Monsoon rains usually arrive by mid-June.
WHERE TO STAY
Places to stay range from national park restcamps to ecolodges and Rajasthan palaces.