APART from heritage and culture, India is also incredibly rich and diverse in wildlife.
The country is home to a number of wildlife conservation parks and being able to have a visual treat of tigers, lions, elephants, rhinoceros, leopards, crocodiles, deer and birds in their natural habitat is an experience of a lifetime especially for animal lovers.
Notwithstanding the variety of wildlife, the one animal that you have to sight in the wild in India is the Bengal Tiger.
India monopolizes 70 percent of the world’s tiger population and thanks to strict anti-poaching laws and conservation efforts, the latest tiger census showed that the tiger population increased from 1,700 tigers in 2011 to 2,200 tigers in 2014.
Although tiger sighting in the wild is a matter of luck, the following national parks offer high chances for tiger spotting:
Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan
Ranthambore is one of the largest national parks in India and a favorite among wildlife photographers. The park was once hunting grounds of the Maharajas of Jaipur and had gained celebrity status during the 1960s when Queen Elizabeth II visited and Prince Philip shot a tiger there.
Ever since the park introduced anti-poaching laws in 1973, Ranthambore became one of the best tiger reserves in India.
Best time to visit: The park is open from October to June only. Tiger sightings are between March and May.
How to get there: The park is a three-hour drive from Jaipur. Alternatively, you can travel by train from Delhi to Sawai Madhopur and catch a taxi for the 45-minute drive to Ranthambore.
Kanha National Park, Madhya Pradesh
Kanha is the most picturesque wildlife reserves in Asia. So much so that its open meadows and surrounding landscape inspired Rudyard Kipling to write the classic The Jungle Book. Kanha was Mowgli’s stomping ground of black panthers, bears, pythons, elephants, swamp deer, sambhar, blackbuck, chital, and 125 tigers!
Best time to visit: The park is open from October to June only, with March to May being ideal to spot tigers and panthers.
Getting there: Fly from Delhi to Jabalpur Airport and hire a taxi for the three-hour drive to Kanha.
Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh
Bandhavgarh is not easily accessible but this protected environment provides the best chances of sighting tigers in the wild due to its high tiger and langurs population. It’s worthwhile to allow two days for safaris and it’s very likely you will be successful in sighting tigers on your first safari.
Post-wildlife experience in Bandhavgarh, you can continue your journey to explore the stunning Khajuraho Temples renowned for their unabashed sensuality of sculptures and erotic images. The temples are one of the great masterpieces of Indian temple art and aesthetics. It takes about five to six hours to drive from Bandharvgarh to Khajuraho.
Best time to visit: The park is open from October to June only, with March to May being ideal to spot tigers.
Getting there: Fly from Delhi to Jabalpur Airport and hire a taxi for the three to four hours’ drive to Bandhavgarh.
Sunderban National Park, West Bengal
Spreading over 54 islands and extending into neighboring Bangladesh, Sunderban and its marshy land and dense mangroves is a naturalist’s paradise. The park is also the only mangrove jungle in the world to have tigers swimming in its waters!
Sunderban offers a unique experience of cruising in the mangroves during which you can spot other wildlife such as fishing cats, macaques, wild boars, Indian grey mongoose, saltwater crocodiles, and other reptiles.
Best time to visit: November to February.
Getting there: The park is about 95 kilometers from Kolkata.