tiger seen in Ranthambore

Ultimate Guide to Safaris in India

written by
N black orange
Niarra Travel

India is a place that can’t help but stir the imagination. From the grandiose Taj Mahal to the iconic snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas, there is so much to explore in this magnificent and magical country. While Africa undoubtedly holds the top spot as a safari destination, India presents an equally enchanting yet wholly distinct safari experience.

This South Asian country has one very big draw. One that Africa cannot compete with: the chance to see the largest and most beguiling of big cats, in the form of the Royal Bengal tiger. It is estimated that 70% of the world’s tigers are found in India, making it a leading destination for unique wildlife encounters. Here is our ultimate guide for those looking to go on safari in India and the best places to experience this country's amazing assortment of wildlife.

Elephant walking alone in India

Jim Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand

Best For: A classic safari experience

Located in the Himalayan foothills and spread over 1,319 sqkm, the park is known for its lush forests, vast grasslands, rolling hills and is of course most notable for its rich tiger population. In fact, it is one of the best parks in India to see the big cats in action.

Hop on a jeep safari and drive into the sal tree forests, where you’ll hear the sounds of the jungle calling. Venture into the Dhikala and Bijrani zones for the chance to be left agast by the regal sight of a Bengal tiger, elegantly striding through the forest.

While the park is home to over 300 tigers, like in all walks of life, nothing is guaranteed. Should the sight of this cat slinking through the shadows evade you, then not to worry, as there are many other wildlife encounters to be had.

Spot a leopard perched high up in a tree and see herds of Indian elephants, deer, and wild boars roaming the grasslands. Explore the Ramganga river forest where you will find a plethora of bird species, from the ultramarine flycatcher with its bright blue plumage to the long-tailed broadbill, and take a peaceful bird-watching tour along the riverbanks.

When to Visit:

Jim Corbett National Park is a year-round safari destination. But for cooler, more manageable temperatures, it's better to visit in the winter season from October to February, with the main areas of the park open from November to June.

Tiger at Bardia National Park

Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan

Best for: Stunning lakes and rich history

Take an epic journey through the historic and biodiverse landscapes of Ranthambore National Park. As you explore zones like Tala and Magdhi, the ruins of Ranthambore Fort loom above, offering a dramatic backdrop for viewing Bengal tigers in their natural habitat.

Watch as sloth bears scavenge, leopards skulk through the underbrush, and marsh crocodiles bask on the stunning shores of Padam Talao Lake at one of Northern India’s most famous safari spots.

Stretching over 1,334 sqkm, the park’s diverse flora and fauna create a vibrant ecosystem, where early morning safaris provide the best chance to see tigers hunting in the golden light of dawn. Don’t forget to visit the fort itself for breathtaking views and a glimpse into Rajasthan’s beautiful and storied past.

You can explore more of this region on our Treasures of Rajasthan tour, during which you will travel deep into the heart of the region, where stunning sunsets and leopard encounters await you.

When to Visit:

The prime time to explore Ranthambore National Park is from October to June. The cooler months of November to March are perfect for safaris, while the dry season from April to June increases the chances of spotting tigers near the park’s many waterholes.

Close-up of a tiger in Ranthambore in India

Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh

Best for: Jungle trails

Located in central India and spanning an area of 1,536 sqkm, Bandhavgarh National Park is known for its high density of Bengal tigers. Venture deep into its lush landscapes and tiger sightings are sure to await you.

Take a jeep safari through the Tala, Magadhi, and Khitauli zones, each offering unique encounters with both Bengal tigers and Indian leopards. The park’s mix of dense forests, rocky hills, and open meadows creates an ideal habitat for diverse wildlife, including sambar deer, barking deer, and langurs.

Take the path less travelled through immersive jungle trails by bike as you explore the beautiful forests, or trek through thick vegetation on the park's many hiking trails and discover some of the lesser-known wildlife like the small Indian civet and the adorable palm squirrel. At the centre of the park, surrounded by sloping valleys, you will find the ancient Bandhavgarh Fort, adding a touch of human history to your wildlife adventure.

When to Visit:

The best time to visit Bandhavgarh National Park is from October to June. The months from March to June are particularly favourable for tiger sightings, as the dry season offers great viewing opportunities with less vegetation for them to hide in.

Golden Langur Monkey Bhutan

Kaziranga National Park, Assam

Best for: Boat safaris

A luxury safari in India through the expansive grasslands and wetlands of Kaziranga National Park is a beautiful sight to behold. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the park is renowned for its one-horned rhinos.

As you explore the Kohora and Bagori ranges, watch these colossal creatures graze, accompanied by wild water buffalo and swamp deer. The park is also a refuge for tigers, panthers, and elephants that roam across the 1,090 sqkm of the land.

Set off on a relaxing boat safari on the Brahmaputra River that winds through the park and see the sunset cast its spectacular orange hue over the water. Here, you’ll be treated to the sighting of Gangetic dolphins swimming through the tributaries and a myriad of bird species filling the air with their songs. Kaziranga’s unique ecosystem and dedication to conservation provide a rich, immersive experience, where every turn further reveals the park’s vibrant biodiversity.

When to Visit:

The best time to visit is from November to April, when the park is open and the weather is dry. This period offers the best conditions for wildlife viewing when on your safari in India. Avoid the monsoon season from May to October when the park is closed due to flooding.

Tharu elephant sundowner

Gir National Park, Gujarat

Best For: Seeing Asiatic lions in the wild

The only place in the world where you can spot Asiatic lions in the wild, Gir National Park has so much to offer. As you navigate the rugged terrain of the Girnar Hills and the dry forests, keep an eye out for these majestic lions as they patrol their territory. Brought back from the edge of extinction through conservation efforts, over 500 lions now prowl the park.

However, the king of the jungle is not the only predator you will find wandering through the teak and acacia forests and dry golden scrubland. A trip into Gir National Park will give you the opportunity to see the beautiful Indian leopard, striped hyena, and a variety of smaller predator species like the Asiatic wildcat, jungle cat, and golden jackal.

Bird sightings here are also plentiful, with over 300 species found in the park's deciduous forest. The Kamleshwar Dam area is ideal for spotting crocodiles and many antelope species there to quench their thirst in the scorching Indian sun.

When to Visit:

Plan your visit to Gir National Park between December and April. This period offers the most pleasant weather and the highest chances of lion sightings. The park remains closed from June to October due to the torrential downpours brought on by the monsoon season.

Sujan Jawai Leopard Camp Gallery Leopard

Hemis National Park, Ladakh

Best For: Mountain trekking and spotting snow leopards

Soak in the peaceful seclusion of Hemis National Park, where the stark beauty of Ladakh’s mountainous landscapes meets the thrill of spying a snow leopard high up on a cliff face. Located to the north of the Himalayas, the park covers an area of 4,400 sqkm and is the largest national park in not just India, but all of South Asia.

Known throughout the world for its snow leopard population, which is estimated to be around 200 individuals, the rugged land means that much of the park can only be explored on foot, making it an excellent luxury Indian safari experience for the more intrepid traveller looking to experience nature up-close.

Join guided expeditions to track snow leopards across the snow-clad peaks of the Indian Himalayas. Trek through the high-altitude valleys of Rumbak and Markha, elevated 17,000 ft above sea level, and be prepared to encounter not just snow leopards, but Tibetan wolves, red foxes, the nimble blue sheep, and the sure-footed Asiatic ibex.

The park is also the only place in India where you can find arkars, a wild sheep native to South and Central Asia, huddled along the steep grassy terrain. Your journey through the park will also take you past ancient Buddhist monasteries and epic landscapes that are sure to leave you in awe.

When to Visit:

One of the best times to visit Hemis National Park is from May to October when the weather is mild and the trails are accessible. For the best chance of snow leopard sightings, plan your trip between January and March. This is when these beautiful cats descend to lower altitudes on the hunt for prey that has moved to the warmer valleys below.

A young snow leopard climbing up a tree

Want to experience the magic of India for yourself? Then get in touch with our expert travel team on +44 (0) 20 3821 5994 (UK), +1 (833) 215 9353 (US), or at explore@niarratravel.com and begin planning your very own luxury safari in India.

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