India is an often overlooked nature destination, but the inspiration for The Jungle Book was hardly going to disappoint, was it?
With a list of potential wildlife sightings as diverse as the country’s landscapes, there really is something magical about heading out on safari in India. You’ll stare in awe as you wind along the pathways, past ruined forts and cliff tops in search of sloth bears, Asian elephants and the elusive leopard. And as one of the only places in the world you’ll see tigers in the wild, India is a must visit for every animal lover at least once in their lives.
While you’re in the area, why not take in the the sights of this wonderful country, including the stunning Taj Mahal? Stop off at any restaurant to taste one of the most exciting cuisines in the world and smell the aromatic spices that make it so special. Explore a local market and listen to the hustle and bustle of the city, while you search for the softest silk fabrics to take home as a souvenir. India truly is a feast for all the senses.
Read on to discover more about the wildlife in this fascinating country, from where to see tigers in India and when to go, to the best places to stay and more.
India National Parks, Game Reserves & Wildlife Destinations
Despite India’s size, safaris in the country tend to be limited to a small number of key national parks and reserves. Just one of these is said to be the setting for Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, but which one? You’ll have to visit them all to decide for yourself!
Ranthambore National Park
Ranthambore National Park is just one of the Indian reserves dedicated to the protection of tigers in the wild. Here, they flourish, hiding in the thick undergrowth and splashing through the waterholes in search of food.
The beauty of Ranthambore is in its proximity to the Golden Triangle, a popular tourist route in central India. You could see tigers one day, and Jaipur the next.
The Jim Corbett National Park was the first in the country, dedicated to the conservationist of the same name. Located in the foothills of the Himalayas, Jim Corbett National Park has an enviable position that promises exceptional wildlife viewing with spectacular landscapes. Alongside India’s national animal, the tiger, guests here commonly spot wild elephants, leopards and birdlife.
Pench National Park
Pench National Park is a largely forested area with a vast expanse of grassland, lakes and streams, making the habitat here as varied as the animals who call it home. Guests here are often on the lookout for Bengal tigers, wild dogs, barking deer, sloth bear and monkeys. Birders will be in heaven thanks to the 210 bird species that spend part of the year at Pench too.
Bandipur Tiger Reserve
Claiming the second highest numbers of wild tigers in India, Bandipur makes a great place to go on safari. The reserve is roughly half the size of Ranthambore and Jim Corbett, which means the concentration of animals in a smaller space makes sightings of wild elephants, grey langur and giant squirrels are common. Beautiful species of bird, reptiles and butterflies are also widely seen.
Another smaller reserve, Bandhavgarh has a high density of Bengal tigers within its jungles. A popular saying about the National Park states that “In any other Park, you are lucky if you see a tiger. In Bandhavgarh, you are unlucky if you don’t see (at least) one.” So if a tiger sighting is at the top of your bucket list, Bandhavgarh is the place to go. Other common sightings include deer, hyena and wolves.
Gir National Park
Your eyes are not deceiving you. Those are lions, in India! While there are very few places left in the world you can see Asiatic lions, Gir National Park is one of them. Though lions are the biggest draw, there’s still plenty to see even if you aren’t lucky enough to spot the King of the Jungle. Keep your eyes peeled for sightings of leopards, striped hyena, honey badger and wildcat, among many other fascinating species.
When to go to India
As a tropical country, India has very distinct seasons throughout the year. As a result, the best time of year to visit is mostly dictated by the weather but, do note, this will also vary depending on the area you visit.
The cooler months between October and April are considered to be the best time to visit India for travel. That said, if your main focus of visiting the country is to see wildlife, you may prefer to do so between February and April owing to the comfortable temperatures, mild weather and beautiful scenery.
Between October and December, the land will be recovering from the monsoon season during the summer. As a result, there will be plenty of lush jungle and greenery, providing perfect cover for tigers and other elusive animals to hide from safari jeeps. This does, however, make for spectacular photos where the orange and black stripes stand out against the green leaves and bushes. January sees a slight increase in temperature in comprison to previous months and, with it, reduces the amount of ground water available for animals to drink. This draws most species to the last few watering holes, and the greenery thins out, making both predators and prey easier to spot.
The summer brings with it monsoon rains and soaring temperatures. The humidity and torrential rain in the country can be unbearable, especially if being outside in nature (like, for example, on safari!) forms a large part of your trip. As a result of the poor weather, many lodges and national parks are closed to coincide with the drop in demand. That said, if you do manage to book a safari during this time, prices are likely to be much cheaper and you could very well have the place to yourself..!
Where to Stay in India: Safari Camps & Hotels
For those looking for a bargain, many guests stay in hotels outside of the national parks where you’ll need to join safaris in canters booked separately from your accommodation. However, if you’re willing to spend more, you can enjoy a holiday at exclusive lodges set within national park gates, boasting private safaris led by experienced guides. Just make sure you check what’s available at the hotel before you book.
How to Travel in India
There’s no two ways about it. India is huge. And in a country so large, the distances to travel between airports and safari destinations can be very long. Planes can take the strain, offering a quick, convenient and comfortable way to travel across India. But there is a price to pay for this convenience; costs can be high when you choose this form of transport. For the best prices, check out Skyscanner first.
Thankfully, train travel is another very convenient way to get around. Depending on the distance you want to go and the class of travel you choose, train tickets can be very affordable. Plus, it’s an incredible experience. Mix with locals as they share food and chai, pass the time with your head in a book, or simply stare out the window and watch the world go by.
Another option is to use road transfers, public transport or an organised tour where everything is organised for you ahead of time. Check out Cosmos, G Adventures and GetYourGuide for a variety of tours to suit all budgets and tastes.
Things to do in India
Of course, no trip to India would be complete without seeing one of the many other world wonders this fascinating country has to offer. Combine your safari with a day trip to the Taj Mahal, the forts at Jaipur and much more.