Many of us dream of taking a safari at least once in our lives. And to travel through exotic landscapes and get up close and personal with majestic wildlife really is the experience of a lifetime.
Most people automatically assume they’ll head to Africa to go on safari, but there is in fact another region of the world so rich in wildlife that it might even put some African countries to shame.
India is a land of chaotic charm, but beyond its history, culture, and chaos lies a world of breathtaking natural wonder, where snow leopards roam icy peaks, tigers are the king of the forest, and elephants trek across vast plains.
With cheap tickets to India from most countries in the world, here are 5 reasons you should take an Indian safari.
Reasons to Take an Indian Safari
Tracking Tigers in the Wild
If you’ve never seen a tiger in the wild, the experience is completely different from seeing one in a zoo. And, home to almost half the world’s population of wild tigers, an Indian safari is one of the best opportunities to track them in the wild.
There are 39 tiger sanctuaries across India, though tiger territory is the central State of Madhya Pradesh. There are 5 tiger parks in this region; Bandavgarh, Kanha, and Pench National Parks are the main three, though Bandavgarh National Park (NP) sees the most sightings.
Bandavgarh is a small reserve, though it has India’s highest concentration of tigers, so if seeing a tiger is your main priority, this is the place to be. The park is open from October to June, though April, May and June are the best times to travel for tiger sightings.
This is a rugged national park, and you’ll take open top jeeps down dirt paths as you track tigers through the thick undergrowth. As one emerges onto the track in front of you the tension will make the hair stand on the back of your neck; so close she could pounce on you if she wanted to!
While tiger numbers are rising for the first time in almost a century, there are still only around 3,800 left worldwide. Due to the impacts of deforestation and development, as well as poaching, they are still very vulnerable to extinction.
“The truth of the matter is, we could be one of the last remaining generations on Earth that gets the chance to see this incredible creature in the wild.” – Lonely Planet
A Whole New World (of Wildlife)
India is known for its tigers, but there’s a whole world of exotic wildlife you’ll see on game drives throughout the country. From wild elephants to Asiatic lions (yes, lions), each region offers a very distinct wilderness experience, so it’s well worth researching the best park to visit based on what you’re dying to see.
If you’re sticking with Bandavgarh, this park is also known for its leopards, sloth bears, hog deer, jungle cats, and wild boar. But, if you’re hoping to see the rare Asiatic Lions, you’ll need to hear to Western India’s Gir National Park. This is in fact one of the last places in the world you can find them.
India is home to one other iconic cat; to spot the endangered snow leopard you’ll have to head to national parks high in the mountains. Gangotri NP in Uttarakhand, Khangchendzonga National Park in Sikkim, and Namdapha NP of Arunachal Pradesh are all places you might see it.
The rare one-horned rhino is another big draw to India, found in Kaziranga NP in the East, and if you’re hoping to spot Indian Elephants in the wild, you can head to either Corbett NP in the north, or Periyar NP in the Western Ghats of Kerala.
You’ve then got jackals, rhesus macaques, langur monkeys, and many species of deer and antelope, as well as an incredibly diverse range of birdlife. When it comes to a wildlife experience, India provides fierce competition to the classic African safari.
166 National Parks
Overwhelmed with the choice of national parks listed above? I don’t blame you!
There are a whopping 166 National Parks in India, 99 of which are dedicated wildlife reserves. There are 515 wildlife/animal sanctuaries throughout the country, out of which 48 are governed by Project Tiger.
At this stage, the wealth of choice can be both a blessing and a curse, because you’ll 100% find something that’s perfect for your interests, but how on earth do you figure out where to start your research!!!
If you’re looking for an all-rounded National Park, which has a mix of everything, head to Periyar National Park in south India. This is a lush wildlife sanctuary with plenty of tropical birds, wild elephants, lion-tailed macaques, sambar deer, leopards and Indian bison.
There are tigers in Periyar, though sightings are reasonably uncommon. There is a beautiful lake here where you can take boats out to observe the wildlife drinking at the waters edge.
Otherwise, if you’re heading to Bandhavgarh to spot tigers, you’re a six-hour drive from Kanha National Park, and this can be an excellent way to combine two parks if you have the time to do so. This park allows you to go deep into the forest for experiences that perhaps feel a little less stage-managed.
Diverse Range of Adventure
Of course, wildlife sightings are never a guarentee when you’re tracking an animal in the wild, but you’ll at least have fun trying!
If taking an open air jeep out into the wilds, where a Bengal Tiger could pounce at any moment isn’t thrilling enough, you can head to Sundarbans National Park in West Bengal. This is a mangrove area known for it’s tigers, and you’ll move through the swampy terrain not in a jeep, but in a canoe!
If you’re wanting the sense of a real expedition, head to Pench National Park. This park sees far less tourism than its neighboring Bandavgarh and Kanha, and it often feels like you have the whole forest to yourself.
Many an Indian safari’s also include elephant trekking, where you’ll track tigers on elephant back. Riding elephants for tourism purposes is a controversial and complex topic, and we recommend you avoid elephant safaris completely.
Most tourists who ride elephants are well meaning, though are unaware of the cruelty involved in the business of elephant tourism. These animals are often mistreated, shackled, and despite being illegal to capture wild elephants in India today, many are still captured and held captive; brutally ‘trained’ and ‘broken’ for work in tourism.
If you do plan to ride an elephant despite the debate over the ethics of it, we implore you to read these responsible tourism tips for elephant trekking on tiger safaris.
It Can be Super Cheap
The great thing about Indian safaris is that it can be as expensive or as budget as you want it to be.
Like in Africa, there are a million different companies who offer fully packaged safaris, which vary in levels of luxury depending on how much you’re willing to spend. But you can also very easily do an Indian safari on a more limited budget.
Rural villages often lie on the outskirts of National Parks throughout the country, and you can book very cheap accommodation and head in for a one or two hour safari if you want to.
For instance, the village of Tala sits right on the gates to Bandavgarh (our favorite for tigers), and you can find ridiculously cheap accommodation, often for as cheap as $25 per night. That said, we recommend aiming for a mid range hotel as you definitely get what you pay for in terms of cleanliness and comfort!
Hotels to Book in Bandavgarh National Park
For budget accommodation, we recommend booking The Sun Resort. This is 1 km from Bandhavgarh National Park and will give you a basic private room that is clean and comfy.
For a mid range hotel in Tala, check out Aranyak Resort, which has modern safari rooms, with an outdoor swimming pool, a massage parlour and a multi-cuisine restaurant.
Or if you’re willing to splurge on a little luxury, check out the Pugdundee Safaris King’s Lodge is only 10 minutes from the National Park, and you can organize a private safari with a trained naturalist from the resort itself.
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