Should we really take a Jungle Safari in India? Oh Yes, it is the best way to explore to sheer biodiversity of India that we all look forward to. A Jungle Safari provides a glimpse of mother nature at home, without our interventions.
Why Jungle Safari Holidays
It is a different world out there. Jungles have their own rules and way of life. It is important to visit the jungles once in a while just to get out of the urban jungles that we do tend to get sucked in. Soaking in & experiencing the wild forests, the wilderness in national parks is a memorable lifetime experience when you genuinely feel one with the nature around you.
What to experience during Jungle Safari Holidays
They take you through the entire ecosystem of a forest. Most of us go looking for spotting big animals like Lions, Tigers, Leopards, Sloth Bears, Wild Dogs, etc. Remember they do not live alone. They have a whole ecosystem surrounding them. There are herds of deer that you can always spot. Just stop and watch as they hop around and remind you of the poetry that their intoxicating walk has invoked over eras. Animals like Neelgai, Bisons, Jackals, Wild dogs can be easily spotted.
Closer to water bodies look for crocodiles or Alligators.
Elephants, Deers, Rhinos, Sambars, Bisons etc are herbivore animals like me. Although this does not mean that they can not kill you if they feel threatened.
Birds are not easy to spot in thick jungles as they have a lot of space to go and hide. It is a ‘Hide and Seek’ game that we play with them, A good tip is to keep an eye on them as they fly and then sit on a tree. Some of them can be identified with their distinct colors. It is always a pleasure to see the Indian Roller fly or count the 9 colors of an Indian Pitta.
On the outskirts of the jungles, if you take a walking trail, you will be surprised to see a huge variety of birds. Identify them with their unique colors, calls or sounds. You may be surprised to discover many birds you may have never known or heard before. There are almost 1300 species of birds that can be spotted in India.
Colorful butterflies, small and large, fluttering in the sunshine attract your attention in the jungles. There are over an estimated 1000 species of butterflies found in India.
There are several thousand moths that you can spot in the jungles of India. Look at this triangular moth we found on the walking safari at Satpura National Park. They are unique.
The Triangles, (Trigonodes hyppasia species), also known as semi-looper is a moth. Forewings with a large black white-edged triangular patch easily distinguished below the cell from near base to towards outer angle. It is found from the Old World tropics and subtropics through Asia to the south Pacific. They are commonly called Four-triangled Moth because of the unique pattern marks on its upper side forewings – 4 black triangles bordered with white lines. The size is about 2cm, with a wingspan of about 4cm. At rest, the moth holds its wings in a triangular shape.
Trees & Creepers
A Liana is a long-stemmed, woody vine that is rooted in the soil at ground level and uses trees for vertical support. Lianas compete with forest trees for sunlight, water, and nutrients from the soil.
Do not forget to interact with the sheer biodiversity of trees and plants of jungles. Newly sprouting plants to decades old and a few century-old giant trees sustain the ecosystem of the jungles. Sometimes in the dense jungles, these trees form a canopy that even the sun rays can’t penetrate. Several creepers can be seen growing on the trees in the jungles.
Venomous snakes like Cobras to Pit Vipers can be easily seen in the jungles. Non-venomous snakes like the Indian Rock Pythons to Green Vine Snakes to Rat Snakes several other types of snakes can be spotted during a safari. Note the Python asphyxiating a Langur Monkey is also injured in the process.
One can easily spot various types of Giant Spiders and their amazing spider nets connecting the tree branches across the jungle pathways.
Nephila pilipes spiders are commonly found in forests. The females are large and grow to body size of 30–50 mm (overall size up to 20 cm), with males growing to 5–6 mm. It is the largest of the orb-weaving spiders. Their golden web is vertical with a fine irregular mesh and not symmetrical. It is one of the biggest spiders in the world.
Argiope aemula, commonly known as Oval St Andrew’s Cross Spider, a giant conspicuous “signature spiders” seen in tropical grasslands. They get their name from the zigzag design embossed on the web believed to serve a camouflage function.
Funnel spider webs are interesting to see, you wonder if they inspired the funnel designs.
A wide variety of insects, moths, worms, fungi can be seen in the jungles, particularly near the wetlands and water bodies.
Colorful wildflowers including rare and interesting wild orchids can be seen blooming in the jungles depending upon the seasons.
Types of Jungle Safari to try
Jeep Safari is probably the most common way to explore national parks. Most Jeep safaris are done in an organized fashion during early mornings and late afternoons. The exact time varies from national park to national park. It is advisable to book your safaris in advance as at the popular parks you may not get a last-minute booking.
The national parks located close to a river/lake/backwaters sometimes also have an option of a Boat Safari. You sit in a boat and look at the flourishing jungle around you. This is the best way to catch birds who prefer to live close to water. Wild animals also come to rivers to drink water or just to have a splash.
Night Safaris are a good way to explore the nocturnal animals and birds. To see the civets, Night Jar birds or owls is a joy, but remember you may be encountering animals you can not see easily. I remember we spotted a pair of sloth bears at night and all we could see was their shining bright eyes. Night Safari is generally a jeep ride on the outskirts of restricted forest areas like the buffer zones where roads pass by.
Yes, you may be in for a surprise here. Some of the national parks like Satpura allow you to walk in the jungles and that is your walking safari. Of course, you have to go with a team of forest guides, naturalists and aides. A forest guide not only knows the trails that you can walk on but also helps you spot the animals and birds. If you are curious enough you can learn about the flora of the jungle during a walk. These are conducted in the buffer zone and not in the core dense jungles.
The Elephant Safari seems to be on its way out, but it not totally out as yet. I took an elephant safari in Jaldapara National Park in West Bengal and it was an incredible experience. To see the giant animal go through the uneven ground with ease is amazing. I also realized that we were actually walking through the grass that was as tall as the elephant and there is no other way you can experience this without being on the elephant’s back.
Best Jungle Safari Destinations
The following are some of the best Jungle Safari Destinations in India that we have explored. There are many more national parks & wildlife sanctuaries to be visited. Make sure to explore them at least in 2-3 destinations that offer different kinds of experiences during your next vacations.
Kanha National Park, Madhya Pradesh
The first time I had an opportunity to sight a wild Tiger in a jungle was during my safari at Kanha National Park also called Kanha Tiger Reserve. Spread over 1900 sq.km in the state of Madhya Pradesh, consisting of core zone and buffer zone Kanha is best known for regular Tiger sightings.
The Rock Star Tiger fondly called Munna used to be the one who calmly walked beside the safari jeeps, crossed the jungle pathways marking his territory, enthralling the visitors quite often.
Barasingha or Swamp Deer is another animal this national park is famous for. Besides of course it is home to a wide variety of wild animals, about 300 species of birds, etc. Kanha is also home to over a reported 1000 species of flowering plants.
Satpura National Park, Madhya Pradesh
Jeep Safari, Boat Safari, Walking Safari & Night Safari were all experienced by us first time at Satpura National Park and Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh. Spread over 1400 sq.km in multiple zones, an added attraction here is the backwaters of Denwa River. You will enjoy the boat ride across the backwaters to enter the restricted Forest area.
Read more Jeep Safaris at Satpura National Park
You may also inquire and go for an early morning Birding walk on the outskirts of the forest area near the villages. We could also see several butterflies on the campus of the resort in the month of November.
Pench National Park, Madhya Pradesh
Named after the river Pench that flows through the jungles, Pench National Park and Tiger Reserve is also well known for the tiger sighting.
Popularly called Collarwali Tigress the queen of Pench, she has given birth to over 22 (some say 26) cubs a sort of record in itself. Because of her comfort level with the visitors, here I could sight the Tigress with her cubs.
Spread over about 750 sq.kms Pench National Park is at the southern border of Madhya Pradesh and spreads over to an additional about 700 sq.kms in the adjoining areas of Maharashtra state.
You will be able to spot a lot of variety of Birds both during the safari and around the villages on the outskirts of the national park.
Spotting the Yellow-crowned Woodpecker and a pair of Indian Scops Owl were the highlights of my bird sightings at Pench.
Read more Birds of Pench National Park
Another pleasant experience at Pench was the accommodation at a Luxury Tree House.
Nameri National Park, Assam
On the border of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh lies the about 200 sq.km Nameri National Park enriched by the Jia Bhoroli river and its tributaries. Further, an adjoining about 800 sq.km of Pakhui wildlife sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh north-east to Nameri makes it a substantial base for wildlife.
Due to time constraints over a long trip to the north-eastern states, we could only do an early morning walking safari from the Nameri Eco Camp up to the Jia Bhoroli river. I am sure there is a lot more to discover out there. Elephants are the prime attractions at Nameri.
Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh
It is supposed to have the highest density of Tigers in the world. They say if you do not sight a tiger here, you are unlucky. I was unlucky despite taking 3 Jeep safaris in the Magadi & Tala zone. But that gave me a chance to pay attention to the rest of the jungle attractions.
Spread over about 450 sq.km the park derives the name from an ancient fort Bandhavgarh. Home to about 37 species of Mammals, some 350 species of Birds and about 80 species of Butterflies, Bandhavgarh National Park & Tiger Reserve is a good destination for Jeep and Elephant Safaris.
Bandhavgarh was once a fort, so it also has a rich heritage & history.
Jaldapara National Park, West Bengal
On the foothills of the Himalayas at the Northern Bengal state is the Jaldapara National Park. It is best known for the single-horned Rhinos. Spread over 200 sq.km it is in close proximity to many nature reserves like the Chilapata Forest (better known as Elephant corridor), Buxa Tiger reserve and Gorumara National Park.
Hollong Tourist Lodge by the Bengal Tourism is perhaps the best place to stay amidst the wilderness. Here you can watch wild Single Horned Rhinos, Bisons, Wild Boar’s and Deer’s standing across a small rivulet. Hundreds of chirping birds are also a common sight at Hollong.
This is the only place I enjoyed an Elephant Safari in addition to the standard Jeep Safari to explore the jungles.
Yes, the wild Single-horned Rhinos indeed walk around within a few feet of the Hollong Tourist Lodge at night. Never have we seen wildlife at such close proximity.
Rajaji National Park, Uttarakhand
Spread over 800 sq.km in the foothills of the Himalayas in the state of Uttarakhand. Rajaji National Park is named after Bharat Ratna awardee, C. Rajagopalachari one of the prominent freedom struggle leaders of India. One of the best national parks for the Elephants, Himalayan wildlife and Birding watching. Almost a third of the bird species found in India have been spotted in Rajaji National Park.
We do need to go back there and explore it in leisure.
Pocharam Wildlife Sanctuary, Telangana
Named after the Pocharam Dam backwaters, it is a relatively small wildlife sanctuary spanning little over a 100 sq.km in the state of Telangana. You can do walking trails here and see a lot of spotted deer and birds. A good day trip from Hyderabad.
Keoladeo National Park, Rajasthan
Popularly known as Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, it is primarily popular as the home of about 370 species of birds. Spread over about 29 sq.km in the state of Rajasthan, this marshy wetlands also hosts several migratory birds and has about 379 floral species. Saras Crane, Nilgai, Indian Jackal, Pythons can be seen here.
Read more Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary
Safaris here are allowed between sunrise to sunset time along the well-laid mud paths. Walking, Cycling, Horse carriage, and Cycle rickshaw are the options for the visitors to explore this national park. We did a cycle rickshaw round first, and a day-long walking safari across the about 11 km of the pathway. If you have stamina walking is the best way to explore this park.
Kaziranga National Park, Assam
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kaziranga National Park is home to about the 2/3rd world’s population of the Single-horned Rhinos (or Rhinoceros). An important home to the Tigers, Elephants, and Wild Water-Buffaloes. Spread over about 800 sq.km in the north-eastern state of Assam. Kaziranga is the national park where we first saw the wild Single-horned Rhinoceros with a baby so close during a Jeep Safari. There are 3-4 zones at which morning and afternoon Jeep Safari are conducted. Elephant Safaris are also available for the public here.
The Kaziranga National park is crisscrossed by many rivers including the mighty Brahmaputra river.
Sariska National Park, Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan
Spread over 866 sq.km the wildlife sanctuary is in the Alwar district of Rajasthan state. We did a Jeep Safari and were unlucky in Tiger sighting. Nevertheless, we enjoyed spotting several birds, crocodiles by the waterbody, and the drive-through canopy formed by dense jungles where even the sun rays could not pass.
Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary, Goa
Spread over 8 sq.km in the hinterlands of Goa, Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary has a zoo, a Deer Park, botanical gardens, bird watching options. It can be easily explored by walking around. For the enthusiasts, there are nature trails organized in the sanctuary.
Jim Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand
Spread over about 1318 sq.km in the Nainital district of Uttarakhand state, it is among the oldest National Parks & Tiger Reserve in India. Sighting Tigers & Elephants are the prime attractions for the visitors here. Home to about 50 species of mammals, 580 species of birds. Jeep safaris are popular and are conducted over different zones of the park. I could not sight any Tigers here during the safari. Walking Safari are allowed in the buffer zones and are a great way to explore the flora, fauna, birding.
Bandipur National Park, Karnataka
Spread over about 912 sq.km in the Chamarajanagar district of Karnataka state, the Bandipur National Park & Tiger Reserve is perhaps the best in southern India. Blessed by neighboring Nagarahole & Mudumalai National Parks, Wayanad wildlife sanctuary & Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, collectively this is the largest Tiger & Elephant habitat in India. Safaris are conducted here in Bus and Gypsy Jeep.
The park is rich in flora, fauna, birds & butterflies.
Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary, Karnataka
Home to the popular Malabar Pied Hornbills and Malabar Giant Squirrels Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary is atop the western ghats of Karnataka. Spread over 866 sq.km in the Uttara Kannada district, it is also a Tiger Reserve & Elephant Reserve. You can take a jeep safari in the jungles here. We spotted Jackals, Mongoose during the safari and also got to see the vast lush green landscape of western ghats from atop a viewing point.
Read more Dandeli – Home of Malabar Pied Hornbill
Kali river and its backwaters offer many watersports activities for the visitors. Birding is another highlight of the destination as it is home to more than 200 species of birds.
Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary, Uttarakhand
Spread over about 45 sq.km Binsar Wildlife sanctuary is about 35 KMs from Almora, Kumaon region, in the state of Uttarakhand. Better known for the view of Himalayan Peaks from Zero-point and KMVN Tourist Guest House within the sanctuary. We did explore the sanctuary on a walking trail. Jeep Safari is also available for those who don’t stay at KMVN guest house.
The sanctuary is a hilly area with narrow pathways. Himalayan wild animals are reportedly spotted here. It is also a good destination for birding activities.
The right time for Jungle Safari
The best time to explore a jungle is early morning or late afternoon or night. That is because most sightings of prime attractions are early in the morning just after the sunrise. Night Safari is to sight the nocturnal animals, birds.
Tips for Jungle Safari
- Do not carry any food.
- Explore Jungles only with Forest Dept personnel & trained staff.
- Always seek permission from the Forest Dept officials before undertaking any Safari and heed to their advice.
- Do not walk out on your own.
- Wear colors that merge with the jungle. Do not wear anything bright and flashy that can threaten animals in any way.
- Do not play any music. Listen to the music of the jungle instead.
- Carry Binoculars you may get a better view of wildlife that cant be seen up-close
- Do not tease/feed wild animals.
- Do not insist on getting closer to the sighted wild animals. There is always an alert-boundary for wild animals. Just learn to respect that.
- Jeep Safari in the jungle pathways is full of ups, downs, and turns. Make sure to take care that the Jeep frames do not hit your bones, ribs, head during the journey.
- Safari Jeep can be hired by a group or on a sharing basis in these national parks.
- The Jeep Safari will cost about Rs. 500=00 per person.
- Elephant safaris are generally declining.
- Carry warm clothing as the early morning chilling breeze cant be tolerated by all.
- Nobody can guarantee the sighting of Tigers & Leopards. Don’t be disappointed, enjoy so much more nature offers at each of these national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.
Plan your Jungle Safari Holidays Trip
Generally, the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries are closed for the public during the monsoon season which varies across India. They may also be closed for a weekly off day or some national/local holidays like the festivals. Book your forest range entrance in advance, either online wherever available or through the tour operators, hotels & resorts, etc. Charges applicable for the safari are national park entrance fees, vehicle charges, guide charges. Naturalist guides would be useful in sighting, learning, observing and more.
Generally, early morning and afternoon open jeep safaris are conducted. Safaris like Elephant Safari, Boat Safari, Night Safari, Walking Safari availability, timings need to be verified. Visitors need to carry an identity & nationality document. There are different forest zones and the timings of safaris vary with season.
Do share your Safari Holidays experiences.