India's "Big Five"

Mike Gurrey

01 Feb 2018

NWS Mike introduces you to India's five largest residents

Chances are, you’ve heard of Africa’s “Big Five”, a list of five iconic animals that our clients hope to spot whilst on safari. Though India may not come to mind for most people as a top wildlife destination, it has its own Big Five!

Bengal Tiger

Once in grave danger of extinction, India’s wild Bengal tiger population has begun to rebound due to better policing of national parks, educating the public about the issues facing the species, and an increase in conservation work by lodges and tourists alike. If you’re lucky, tigers can be spotted in a number of national parks across the country, from Corbett National Park in the north to Nagarhole in the southern state of Karnataka, along with the central reserves of Kanha, Pench and Satpura. On our Madhya Pradesh with a Difference safari, you’ll get to enjoy these latter three parks whilst cycling, canoeing and remote camping – it’s an itinerary that has it all.

Asiatic Lion

The Asiatic lion (a subspecies distinct from the African lion) can be found in only a single Indian state: Gujarat. The population is estimated at just over 500 individuals in the wild, making this a rare and exciting sighting. Within Gujarat, there is just one place to see Asiatic lions in the wild, and that’s Sasan Gir National Park. On our new Lions and Temples of Gujarat Safari you can spend 16 days discovering the best of what this fascinating and intriguing state has to offer.

Asiatic Leopard

Though this species is widespread throughout India, they are so elusive and shy that they can be difficult to spot. Asiatic leopards can be seen with luck in national parks throughout the country, especially where night safaris are possible. If you want to up your chances of seeing leopards then try spending a few days in southern Rajasthan at Jawai. Though not a national park, the Jawai Conservation Area is home to a large number of leopards, and though we can never guarantee a sighting this would be the best place in India to try! Leopards, Rivers & Palaces of Rural Rajasthan is a two-week safari covering some of India’s most stunning rural countryside, and you’ll be able to stay in majestic forts and luxury camps along the way.

Indian Elephant

Although very common in captivity, the Indian elephant is both difficult and rewarding to spot in the wild. Listed as a subspecies of the endangered Asian elephant by the IUCN, they are present in highly localised and fragmented areas within India. Head to the southern part of the country to stand the best chance of seeing elephants – Periyar National Park in the state of Kerala being my favourite destination. You can spend two days exploring Periyar by embarking on our Taste of Kerala Safari, during which you can go in search of elephants and sample the rest of Kerala’s delights. Seeing an elephant within a dense forest is truly an encounter to remember!

one-horned Rhino

According to the WWF, rhino populations in India have rebounded from about 600 in 1975 to over 3,500 today. This one-horned species can only be found in a few pockets of northern India and Nepal, and is the second-largest rhinoceros living today. Kaziranga National Park is the best place to see these majestic mammals, but the park is also home to Indian elephants, Bengal tigers, jackals, langurs, water buffalo and a number of other species. Our Rhinos, Temples & Tigers Safari shows you the best of what India has to offer, including Bengal tiger tracking and two nights in Kaziranga in search of the one-horned rhino.

All of India’s Big Five are threatened by habitat loss, poaching and environmental degradation, so seeing these large mammals in such a crowded and busy country is an unforgettable experience!

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