The varied landscapes and climatic conditions in India offer natural habitats to about 400 species of mammals. Known for its rich biodiversity, India is home to many unique species – the Royal Bengal Tiger, the Asiatic Lion, the Greater One-horned Rhinoceros, the White-footed Fox, and the Asiatic Elephant amongst others.
With over a hundred national parks to choose from, a wildlife sojourn in India is an adventure. You can opt for the adrenaline rush of a jeep safari.
A Bengal Tiger peeks through the foliage
Corbett: India’s oldest national park
Named after the famous author and hunter turned conservationist – Jim Corbett, the Corbett National Park was the first in India to come under the fold of Project Tiger initiative.
Grasslands at Corbett National Park
The landscape is dramatically diverse, the Himalayan foothills loom large on the horizon, the river Ramganga flows through the park, and a jungle safari transports you from amber tinted tall grasslands to dense foliage in no time. A treasure trove for bird enthusiasts, one can spend hours trying to recognise the chirping, the forests here are always ‘alive with the sound of music.’
Best Time to Visit Corbett
From mid-October to mid-June. There are defined eco tourism zones within the forest. Durga Devi and Bijrani zone can be visited from mid-October to mid-June, and Dhikala zone can be visited from mid-November to mid-June. Jhirna and Dhela zones are open through the year.
Where to Stay
You can also book a Forest Rest House inside a Ecotourism Zone.
Pench: The legend of Mowgli
The forests of Pench are said to have inspired the much loved ‘The Jungle Book’. In the year 1831, a wolf child was found in these jungles and the accounts published spurred Sir Rudyard Kipling’s imagination. It is believed he travelled to these jungles as well.
Birds at Pench National Park
The forest cover in Pench National Park is not too dense with a mix of dry deciduous forests, shrubs and grassy patches. It is interspersed with striking Kulu trees, their silvery white trunks lending a ghostly appearance. A tiger reserve was established in 1992, and the national animal of India is frequently spotted. The forest is also home to leopards, sloth bears, wolves, hyenas, wild dogs and deer amongst others. Several migratory birds visit the forest too and can be spotted around the water bodies.
Best Time to Visit Pench
Mid-October to end June.
Where to Stay
Gir: For the Asiatic lion
Located in the Junagadh district of Gujarat, the Gir Forest National Park is your choice for watching an Asiatic lion in the wild.
CC 2.0 / Arian Zwegers
The conservation efforts here started as early as 1900 when the lion population had dwindled down to 20. Today, more than a 500 lions roam the jungles, and a pride of lions can be easily seen on a safari. Apart from the lions, leopards, hyenas, and crocodiles are found in the forests. Online permits for jungle trails need to be booked in advance, else they can be physically obtained at the Sinh Sadan Orientation Centre.
Watch out for the spectacular night sky in Gir; bedecked with thousands of glittering stars.
Best Time to Visit Gir
November to March.
Where to Stay
Kaziranga: Bastion of the One-horned Rhinoceros
Spread over the flood plains of India’s largest river, the Brahmaputra, Kaziranga has been recognised as a UNESCO world heritage site. The mighty river lends a distinct character to the topography – a mix of grasslands, marshy patches, and tropical forests.
The One Horned Rhinoceros at Kaziranga National Park
Once a game sanctuary, Kaziranga has been the centre of intensive conservation efforts to save the One-horned Rhinoceros from the brink of extinction. Apart from the Rhino, you can spot wild water buffaloes, hog badgers, porcupines and perhaps, a tiger as well. Bird watchers are also bound to get lucky, with close to 500 avian species in the park including hornbills, pelicans, herons, babblers, weaver birds, thrushes, eagles, etc.
Best Time to Visit Kaziranga
November to April.
Where to Stay
United 21 Grassland is good option for a place to stay when visiting Kaziranga.
Hemis: For the elusive snow leopard
If adapting to cold is not a deterrent for you, trekking in the Hemis High Altitude National Park in Ladakh promises a wildlife experience like no other.
CC 2.0 / Sumeet Mondal
While the density of snow leopards is high, chances of encountering the ‘grey ghost’ are low as the animal is shy and gets camouflaged in the high rugged snow clad cliffs. The region also serves as a natural habitat for the Ladakhi Urial, the Asiatic Ibex, and the Tibetan Wolf. Situated north of the Himalayas, the region houses the 400-year-old Tibetan Buddhist Hemis monastery.
CC 2.0 / Enric Güell
Best Time to Visit Hemis
May to mid-October. In July, the Hemis Tsechu monastic festival is celebrated over two days.
Where to Stay
Located about 30 kilometres away from the Hemis monastery, The Grand Dragon Ladakh and Hotel Shambhala are good options for a stay. Or you can choose to camp instead; there are several camping sites around the Hemis monastery.
Ranthambore: Home of many legendary Bengal tigers
Among India’s more famous national parks, Ranthambore is known for its dry deciduous habitat. Located in the state of Rajasthan, the forest has been home to many legendary tigers, including Machali, who was believed to be world’s oldest and most photographed Bengal tigress at the time of her death in 2016.
CC 2.0 / Rohit Varma
Inside the park area, is the imposing 700 feet high Ranthambore fort. One can also visit ancient Hindu and Jain temples. A banyan tree, believed to be second largest in India, can be seen near Padma Talao, the biggest lake in the park. Besides tigers, look out for leopards, wild boars, hyenas, spotted deer, and many more.
Best Time to Visit Ranthambore
October to April
Where to Stay
Ranthambore National Park
Nagarhole: Along the misty backwaters of Kabini river
A former hunting ground of the Mysore royalty, Nagarhole (also known as Rajiv Gandhi National Park) is located in the Kodagu district of Karnataka.
A wild elephant at Nagarhole, Rajiv Gandhi National Park
It is a part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, a biodiversity hotspot. An early morning boat ride on the Kabini backwaters is a unique experience; the sky is flushed pink, and a blanket of mist settles on the tranquil waters. You may be able to watch tigers, leopards, wild elephants or deer on the banks. Local villagers also rely on these backwaters for their commute and can be seen moving around in basket-shaped round coracle boats. Chances of bird sighting are aplenty — you can see ospreys, serpent eagles, orioles, and kingfisher.
Best Time to Visit Nagarhole
September to May