Centuries back when our planet have plenty of wildlife we didn’t have value for them for their existence so we lost 99 percent of the total wildlife population. As per WWF, in Living Planet Report 2018, 60 percent of the total population of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles have declined in last 40 years. Now, where we see them living in their natural habitat is in the Park, The National Parks. There are a few countries like Thailand, Botswana, India, China, Scotland, South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya that have the most wildlife left in the world. As far as wildlife safaris are concerned, two destinations always come in our mind, India or Africa.
The large savanna of the African Landscape holds the highest densities of herbivores all around the world. The big five of Africa attracts the most of tourist, the big cats Lions and the Leopards, African Elephants, Rhinoceros along with Cape Buffalo makes the big five of Africa. Other key species of the places are African Cheetah, African Wild Dogs (also known as Painted Wolf or Painted Dog), Spotted Hynes, Striped Hyena, Zebra, Giraffe, and many more.
Whereas India is Known for its own kind of diverse wildlife. The same way big five of Africa if I see the big five of India, would be The Bengal Tigers, Asiatic Lion, Asiatic Elephant, Indian Leopard, and One-Horned Rhinoceros. Apart from the big five other key species of mammals in India are the Indian Wild Dog (known by different names Red Dog, Dhole, Whistling Hunter), Indian Wolf, Snow Leopard, Himalayan Brown Bear, Sloth Bear and many more.
Safaris in India
One of the key attractions of wildlife safaris in India is a Tiger. In 1972 when the Tiger protection act was launched the Tiger population in India was just about 1827. With the great effort of conservationists, Tiger has been brought back from the brink of extinction. Now there are around 3000 Tigers in 52 Tiger reserves and in total 104 National Parks all together in India where we call it as their home. Tigers are in all the Tiger Reserve, however; we are not lucky enough to see Tigers in every Tiger reserve. Sightings happen in some of the good parks which have good densities of Tigers and should be used to with vehicle presence.
Three to four months of monsoon in India has given the wildlife to flourish all around India. The thick and lush jungles in India are best explored in an open gypsy. Please click here to see the same. This was shot impromptu by my colleague Sharad in Kanha national park during a safari. In most of the National parks the gypsy is used for safaris, some of the lodges like Taj Safari Lodges have a luxury safari vehicle. Safaris in India are mostly through certain routes, the undulating landscape and the dense vegetation inside the National Parks do not make it off-road-friendly.
Wild Life in India
In India there are 412 species of mammals, 1357 species of birds, more than 500 species of butterflies and 518 species of reptiles and millions of arthropods (Arthropod are invertebrates with jointed legs). Different kind of habitat around the Indian landscape has given the huge diversity on the type of animal we find here. Tigers and Leopards are two top predators in India which have adopted themselves and made themselves widely spread all over India. From the Alpine Himalayas in the north to the rainforest of South, from the scrub lands of Rajasthan to the West to Far East of India, they are living in all around India in small pockets of forest, the National Parks. Some of the key species of India are-
Tigers in India:
The widely spread, critically endangered, show stoppers are not so hard to find if we do research and visit the right National Park. Tigers are ambush hunter, so they need a dense vegetation forest, the forest in North India, South and East India is quite dense resulting the bad visibility. Though the Tiger density is good in those areas but to see one is difficult. However, Corbett National Park in Uttarkhand is an exception, has given some remarkable sightings.
The Deccan Plateau region or Central India, along with the Scrublands of Rajasthan are the good places for seeing a Tiger. Some of the National Parks for the best chances of seeing a Tiger in its natural habitat are, Bandhavgarh National Park, Kanha National park, Pench National Park in Madhya Pradesh, Tadoba in Maharashtra, Ranthambhore in Rajasthan and Corbett in Uttarkhand.
Explore our Tiger Safari in India tours
Snow Leopard in India:
A mountain Ghost, lives in an altitude of between 3000 to 5000 meters above the sea level in the Himalayas, Snow Leopard is one of the rarest of the cat found in the trans Himalayas of India. It is not an easy task to keep a track of the count of Snow Leopard, with the help of modern technology of camera traps the estimated population of Snow Leopard in India is around 450 to 600.
There are two places where you can see the ghost with your eyes, Kibber Wild Life Sanctuary in Himachal Pradesh and Leh in Jammu and Kashmir. At such an altitude when we travel there are several precautions needs to be taken. Again it is not easy task to find a Ghost, a Snow Leopard. The spotters (the locals who are trained on looking for the Snow Leopard on the cliffs), start their search before sunrise when the Leopards will still be on move until sunset. If there are any sightings, then you will have called and either you drive or walk depending upon distance to witness the Mountain Ghost. This can happen only in winter months; February March are the best month to see.
Explore our Snow Leopard Tour to Spiti Valley
One Horned Rhinoceros in India:
Did you know that nearly 85 percent of the total population of One-Horned Rhinoceros is in India? Yes, as per last census in March 2018 there are 2413 numbers of One-horned Rhinoceros in India. These animals have the home range and often fights to an opponent for a female or for a home range. Sometimes the fights are so extreme especially over a mate ends up one’s death. However, in summer if you visit than you will witness different. You may see few of them (I have witnessed 7 together) together in a water hole.
A body like armored, with a single horn, with an acute sense of smell and hearing, weighing around 2 tons, the Greater one-horned Rhinoceros are mostly found in the flood plains of the Brahmaputra at Kaziranga National Park, Assam.
Explore our Red Panda and Rhino Tour
Asiatic Elephant in India:
The largest land mammal of India the Asiatic Elephant, are found in the foothills of the Himalayas from West to East, in the Western Ghats and some states like Orrisa, Chhattisgarh and now recently have entered Madhya Pradesh as well. With a height of around 2.7 meters and a weight of around 04 tons, you may see the Asiatic Elephants in Hundreds of them together in Kabini. During the month of March April when the food is scarce, the elephants gathered near to the Kabini backwater. The decrease in water level gives birth to the small grass plains for the herbivore.
Kaziranga in Assam, Corbett in Uttarkhand, Kabini, Nagarhole in Karnataka, Periyar in Kerela are some of the best places to see Asiatic Elephant in the wild.
Wildlife view in a different month
National Parks in India opens in 01st October of every year and closes for three months during monsoon from 01st of July. After the monsoon October November, the forest will look beautiful. The whole national Parks will be plenty for every wildlife. The Weather will also be pleased to be inside the park. From October to February, the water and food will sufficient inside the park so the herbivores move more around the park so as the predator marking its territory.
The temperature rises slowly during these months resulting in the movement of predators and the prey till late morning. The paws of a cat are a very sensitive part of the body. To avoid the resistance walking on an open land a Tiger walks on a safari track or Pugdundee. You may see a Tiger walking right in front or behind your vehicle.
Summer starts from March, this is when the sightings increase considerably. The heat of day slowly dries out the water hole inside the park, only few waterholes will have water. Those water holes attract all the herbivores and the predators resulting the maximum sightings of the animals. To cool off you may see a Tiger laying down half body dipped in water for an entire day.
Generally, for Tiger Safari in India, March April is the best month, for Snow Leopard February March is the best month and for birding too winter starting from January to March is the best time as hundreds of birds migrate from Central Asia and Europe making India as a birder’s Paradise. Bharatpur, Sultanpur, Okhla are the closest bird sanctuary to New Delhi. Having said that the best time, the sightings of an animal is a matter of chance, you have to be at the right place at the right time.
The kind of experience you get during the winter season tracking a tiger with alarm calls. Only time we see them is when they come in open, or on the road. Following the pug marks and alarm calls and finally reaching to a Tiger, is what is more enjoyable than watching a tiger on a pool. The choice is yours.
Rare Species in India
Having said that there are 412 species of mammals in India does not mean that we will be able to see all. Some of the species are so rare to find, it takes days to track one. Red Panda, one of the cutest of animals lives in the Himalayas. There are very few places now you can see them. Singalila National park in Darjeeling, West Bengal is the best place to see one. A minimum of 06 days’ stay is needed to increase the chances of seeing one.
Lion Tailed Macaque, a rainforest dweller is the endemic primate of Western Ghats. There are around estimated population of 3000 plus individual present in the wild. Parambikulam Tiger Reserve Kerala, Anamalai Tiger Reserve, Periyar Tiger Reserve Kerela are some of the best National Parks in India to see a Lion-tailed Macaque.
Hoolock Gibbon, the only ape species found in India, is found in the forest of Assam, Mizoram, and Meghalaya in North East India. The total population of Hoolock Gibbon in India is estimated just around 392 individuals. These animals are very much vocal, the male and female together produce a loud, elongated sound in the forest canopy.
Himalayan Brown Bear is another one of the rarest species of mammal in India. Why it is a rare one of the reasons is it is not there during the winter season as it hibernates. Did you know that the largest Carnivore in India is a Himalayan Brown Bear which weighs around 1100 lb. i.e. 500 kg? Presently the estimated population of Himalayan bears is around 500-750. If you wish to see the largest Carnivore of India then you may have to visit the Western Himalayas States like Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, and Himachal Pradesh.
Snow Leopard are also one of the rarest species and one of attraction towards the Indian wildlife. At least 10 days is needed for making the chances of seeing a Snow leopard high.
There are many other species of mammals that are rare to see in India like, Caracal a lesser cat species, Honey Badger, Indian Wolf, Nilgiri Thar and many more.
Lastly, I would like to say to the readers that Wildlife Safaris in India will never disappoint you.