Wildlife & Safari Experiences in India: The Black Book

Most of International outbound travelers and wildlife safari enthusiasts in India are stuck at home, not able to continue to explore and discover the world due to COVID-19 global travel lockdowns, restrictions, border closures, quarantine measures and most importantly a possible threat of another lock-down with risk of getting stuck in a foreign country.

But this should not stop them from travelling on a safari, since at home in India, wildlife and safari experiences may surprise you.

You’ll see far more than just the amazing Bengal tiger on your travels through India’s many jungles and forests. In fact, for the Jungle Book enthusiasts you can meet all the characters in real life, whether it is leopard, bear, many forms of deer, fantastic birdlife, rhino, wild elephants, bison and even Asiatic lion – in some ways the variety on offer rivals that of an African safari.

India has a multitude of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries where you can see the many of these species and also experience India’s stunning landscapes and rural heartlands along with its magical culture. In recent years, a range of luxury safari lodges and camps have opened in many of the parks ensuring your wildlife experience is taken to the next level.

Below I present selection of our best national parks in India, with list of best accommodation options which are not only luxurious but also experiential, off-beat, off the grid, and unique.

I am not just referring to the popular Indian Uber-luxury brands like the Taj Safaris, and the Oberoi’s (which are also part of the list below), but also hidden gems, and retreats which are independent, personalised, and have been catering in past to adventurers from foreign countries visiting India in most parts, but also few domestic travellers.

They are now open and ready to welcome Indian guests to experience their properties, services, flora and fauna at it’s best.

Warning: There are no private reserves or private conservancy concept in any of the wildlife parks in India, like you will find or are used to experience in South Africa, Botswana, besides a few other countries in Africa. This means no off-road Game Viewing.

At the bottom of the blog, I have also tried to recommend a few safari circuits and routes, which can be used as your guide to plan your private journeys.

Madhya Pradesh:

Bandhavgarh National Park

Bandhavgarh has a high density of tigers. There are approximately 90 tigers, 25 leopards, chital, sambar, langur monkeys, jackals and a number of bird species.

Bandhavgarh has been divided into zones. Sightings are generally quite good in all zones but the Tala Zone is considered the premium zone because of its tiger population and also attractions, such as the Bandhavgarh Fort and Vishnu Temple.

Accommodation in Bhandhavgarh:

Samode Safari Lodge:

Samode Safari Lodge sits among wild and untamed beauty in the heart of tiger country, Bandhavgarh National Park. The design of this luxurious and sophisticated lodge is based around the concept of each lodging, villa or suite being individual and private, but all with the same high level of comfort and Indian design.

The 12 elegant suites and villas are all individual looking, with air conditioning and heating, large bedrooms, a sitting area, a private terrace with stunning views and wide windows embracing the outdoors. All have both open and covered bathrooms, a natural stone sunken tub outside here you can bathe in privacy under the stars, separated by a wall of glass from the indoor bathroom.

Treehouse Hideaway:

Camouflaged in the trees these five private thatched treehouses with rustic charm put you at the centre of nature and are located at the edge of Bandhavgarh National Park. A perfect base for Tiger spotting and wildlife watching.

Attractively combining traditional jungle living and contemporary design, there are five spacious treehouses consisting of a bedroom, living area and en-suite bathroom, built from natural wood and decorated in an understated earth tones.

All offer self-contained privacy, and have balconies with loungers from which guests can sit and spot the local wildlife. Fans and air conditioning keep you cool during the day, while hot water bottles are a thoughtful touch for the chilly winter nights.

Taj Mahua Kothi:

Taj Mahua Kothi close to Bandhavgarh National Park is a beautiful tented camp with impeccable service and expert naturalists.

The 12 charming suites or Kutiyas (jungle village huts) at Mahua Kothi are built in the 40-acres. Each of the 12 suites is accessed through private courtyards with shaded seating and traditional mud floors. Each en suite bathroom features twin hand basins, indoor shower, bath and separate toilet. Each kutiya features roll-down mats to keep out the early morning sun, as well as overhead fans and air conditioning.

Kanha National Park:

The sheer size and remoteness also mean that Kanha is often less busy than other parks, it offers a superior safari experience. Kanha is home to barasingha, chital, wild boar, sloth bears, jungle cats, wild dogs, leopards and the Bengal tiger.

Under Project Tiger, Kanha was divided into two major zones: the inner core and surrounding buffer. Approximately 25% of the reserve is accessible for tourism. Three entry gates service the reserve: Kisli on the western side received the most attention in the 1990s and has witnessed a boom of hotels and lodges; Mukki in the south, is a quieter gate with a handful of lodges, and Sarhi in the north has just opened to encourage vehicle dispersal.

It is estimated that the reserve is home to 114 tigers, which given the size of the area, is a reasonably healthy population.

Accommodation in Kanha:

Shergarh:

Tucked-away on the edge of Kanha Tiger Reserve, Shergarh is a lovely little safari camp that combines rustic comfort with homely charm, great naturalists and authentic experiences. It is the ideal base to explore the outstanding natural beauty of one of India’s finest tiger habitats, while soaking in the enchanting pace of life that still exists in this rural heartland.

Their six cosy tents are spaciously set within a thriving woodland. Zip into a cool, breathable canvas bedroom, lined with white block-printed cotton and set with a large, comfortable bed, soft pillows and locally-crafted furniture. Open the bamboo door into a spacious bathroom, with twin-basins, separate toilet and shower rooms and a large area to store your luggage.

Each tent has its own private, cushioned verandah where you can relax, enjoy the birdlife, bathe in the sun and gaze up at the stars.

Singinawa Jungle Lodge:

Nestled within a sprawling forest land of 100 acres adjoining the Kanha Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, the Singinawa Jungle Lodge is an ensemble of ecologically responsible tourism.

A perfect blend of palatial accommodation, luxurious amenities and exemplary services.

A world class luxury resort, the Lodge has 12 cottages and 2 forest bungalows (available for small and big groups) that have been designed keeping in mind the forest habitat and wildlife. These rooms are carefully crafted in the most authentic sense of style and comfort, as well as furbished with the modern amenities to suit the needs of a wildlife traveller.

Flame of the Forest:

Flame of the Forest is a beautiful, socially and environmentally aware boutique lodge. Located right next to the Banjaar River, this unique lodge provides a secluded privacy with stunning views over the river and into the jungles beyond.

The lodge features just 4 exclusive cottages, keeping it small means that not only will you get an intimate experience but a personalised flexibility when it comes to meals, wildlife and nature viewing.

The cottages have big double doors opening out onto private verandas with stunning views over the river. They are all en-suite, featuring twin basins and an outdoor bath. Cottages are airy and feature works from young local artists on the walls, each picture is available for sale after it has served a certain length of time on the wall. Access to each cottage is via private patio, with a shaded seating area ideal for long breakfasts and relaxing.

Taj Banjaar Tola:

This safari lodge is situated along the banks of the Banjaar River overlooking the heart of Kanha National Park. It is nestled amid 90 acres of private Sal forest interspersed with grasslands and a seasonal lake.

Two intimate camps of nine tents each are built on the banks of the still river overlooking the national park. Each elegant camp boasts its own pool with outdoor as well as indoor lounge options and interactive dining areas. Bastar bell metal work, Gond artwork and intricate stone carvings adorn the guest areas and showcase the rich cultural heritage of the region.

Pench National Park:

Pench is home to the Asiatic leopard and is still one of the best places in India to spot this creature. The dam in the park is a favourite spot for bird watching. Other wildlife spotted here are chinkara, wild dog, sloth bear and jackal.

Pench has a good reputation for tiger sightings and is less crowded so the overall safari experience is more personal.

Vying with Kanha as the inspiration for The Jungle Book, its tropical forests and grasslands are home to tigers, sloth bear, leopard, jackal, chital and around 200 species of bird.

Accommodation in Pench:

Jamtara Wilderness Camp:

Situated in a gloriously remote and rural setting in the buffer zone of Pench National Park and with private access to its ‘own’ gate (there are no other lodges in this area), Jamtara is a gem and provides a wonderful reason to travel to Pench, not only for the exceptional wildlife, but for the overall atmosphere and ambience of this special place.

There are 10 wonderfully spacious, stunningly simple, well-furnished tents, all with air-conditioning, fans, huge double beds and attached shower rooms (solid walls) with plenty of piping hot water.

They have warm, wooden floors, a desk, plenty of lighting, and a peaceful verandah with further seating. It is the only camp in India which has ‘star beds’ – a raised wooden platform (based on the ‘machaan’ / African idea), out in the countryside, with a glorious double bed made up with mosquito net and all the ‘trimmings’ – so that you may spend the night out under the stars listening to and watching the ‘night life’.

Pench Tree Lodge:

The famous Jungle Book character Mowgli was a wolf befriending boy from the tribal village of Pench. If Mowgli could enliven his escapades, Pench tree lodge would be his time warped home in 21st century.

Their six well appointed tree houses and six luxury cottages are nestled in the undisturbed 16 hectares of forested area in the small ‘Sarrahiri’ village of Pench in the Karmajhiri area. Each treehouse (my choice of stay) features a large four poster bed and a spacious bathroom, and is decorated in a contemporary style using natural materials. The French windows open up to a large private balcony where guests can sit and observe the visiting wildlife while enjoying a sundowner.

This is the first lodge to be set up in this underdeveloped zone and supports are conservation policy of not overcrowding areas and making them unsustainable with over exposure to tourism.

Bhagvan, A Taj Safari:

Located just 100 kms away from Nagpur, a two hour drive brings you to Baghvan, which literally means the ‘tiger forest’. Only a few minutes from the national park entrance these 12 charming stand-alone bungalows are built alongside a picturesque ‘nullah’ (dry riverbed), that demarcates the lodge premises from the national park.

Shaded by huge teak and banyan trees, the 12 sumptuous cottages are housed in two buildings, interconnected by a private courtyard, and blend seamlessly with their environment. All suites have generous en-suite bathrooms with both in and outdoor showers. Above the bathroom is an open air machan (jungle platform), complete with mosquito nets and hookah pipes – ideal for game viewing by day and a romantic sleep-out by night.

The main bungalow at Baghvan has a quirky 1950’s feel and has a communal lounge area which is the perfect place to relax after a game drive and share experiences with fellow guests, whilst being served high tea or sundowners.

Panna National Park:

Panna hosts a huge range of wildlife including tiger, jungle cat, leopard, hyena, wild dog, wolf and sloth bear. Along with many mammals, over 200 species of bird have been identified, which include a host of winter migratory birds. Panna is the first choice for birders.

Panna’s tiger population is flourishing with over 40 tigers counted in 2018. 15 tigers are regularly spotted in the buffer zones. Although sightings are rare, the numbers are on the increase which is exciting. The main reason to visit Panna is for an all-round wildlife experience.

Accommodation in Panna:

The Sarai at Toria:

Perched high above the River Ken, near the Panna Tiger Reserve, Sarai at Toria is a beautiful six-cottage eco-lodge is owned by big cat biologist, Raghunandan Singh Chundawat and his wife, a wildlife photographer and conservationist, Joanna can Gruisen.

This rustic lodge has been built to minimise environmental impact by using a traditional mud-based insulating construction, and is only accessible via a rope-bridge, a firm favourite with the local monkeys.

Each of the six cottages have a classical, elegant design, with a bedroom, bathroom, veranda and a private courtyard, four of these cottages have a mezzanine level with bed spaces perfect for children, and some great views. A majority of the construction materials were locally sourced, such as mud, stone, brick, bamboo and grass and minimal concrete and steel was used.

There is a large dining and lounge area at the highest point for fantastic views as you relax and eat, from the Ken River to the Panna Tiger Reserve.

Pashan Garh – A Taj Safari:

Pashan Garh or ‘stone fortress’ is a cluster of 12 stone cottages huddled atop a small hill, with a sweeping view of dense foliage. Set in 200 acres of private wilderness; this luxury jungle safari resort in Panna National Park draws inspiration from the dry-packed stone houses of the Panna region.

The large and airy guest areas boast open courtyards and a stone deck overlooking the expanse of the forest down a gentle slope. A lookout tower offers a perfect perch for bird watching by day and stargazing after sundown. A rectangular pool under shady trees invites guests for a refreshing dip. Vintage table lamps, rich textiles and an array of other treasures bring softness and warmth to the chunky stone interiors of the common areas.

Satpura National Park

Satpura National Park provides 1427 square kilometres of unique Central Indian Highland ecosystem. This region, therefore, represents the largest block of tiger habitat left in the world.

Satpura has over 50 tigers in its core area. The Doob areas, with open grassy slopes flanked by thickly wooded jungle and small water bodies, are perfect grazing habitats for deer and gaur.

One of the least visited of Central India’s parks, Satpura may not have the tiger populations of the other parks but the low visitor numbers make it an excellent option for exploring the extensive wildlife with a range of safari options, including boat, jeep, and on foot.

Accommodation in Satpura:

Reni Pani Jungle Lodge:

Reni Pani Jungle Lodge, located in a pristine forest typical of the Satpura Tiger Reserve, gets its interesting name from a neighbouring tribal village.

Reni Pani features twelve luxury cottages encompassing three distinct architectural designs. The nallah units, the forest units, and the hill units are all built using local/indigenous material and are characterized by viewing decks, large lounging bay-windows, and luxury bathrooms.

The ‘Gol Ghar’ or the meeting place, has a fascinating and unique design and features a dining area, a bar, a library and a lounge set in its various corners.

Forsyth Lodge:

Being one of the only lodges in the area, guests at Forsyth Lodge have the privilege of enjoying wildlife sightings in an area devoid of other tourists. The Satpura National Park is a spectacular sanctuary for game drives in Central India, and the lodge has access to fantastic tiger territory, as well as offering guests the opportunity to view leopard, sloth bear and a huge variety of birds.

Less luxurious than some of the more lavish lodges, the emphasis here is on wildlife viewing. The guides at Forsyth Lodge are expertly trained and lead both the game drives and walking safaris. With a strong environmental ethos, all staff are employed from local villages, and the lodge has been designed to harvest rainwater and recycle all waste water.

Accommodation at Forsyth Lodge comprises 12 individual cottages (eight twins and four doubles), all with large en-suite bathrooms, air-conditioning and overhead fans. The 12 cottages are based on local architectural styles and each is built using local materials and decorated by the local villagers.

The open fireplace and bar of the central building provides a comfortable place to relax after an exciting day’s safari.

Rajasthan:

Ranthambore National Park:

Ranthambore is home to over 80 tigers, which according to experts is over maximum carrying capacity for the park. Land north of Ranthambore is being considered for a relocation programme. Some tigers have been transferred to Sariska National Park so that they may not stray out of the protected forest area.

Today excellent sightings have been happening in many zones, including those outside the original lakes and fort zones in the Mansingh Sanctuary area.

Offering the best chance of tiger sightings in Rajasthan, Ranthambhore National Park is a wild jungle scrub stretching across 392 km² of open meadows and dry deciduous forests, watched over by the imposing Ranthambhore Fort. Park’s other residents include grey langur, wild boar, Indian leopard, rhesus macaque, nilgai, striped hyena, sloth bear, southern plains, and chital.

Accommodation in Ranthambore:

Sujan Sher Bagh:

Nestled on the borders of world renowned Ranthambore National Park Suján Sher Bagh Bagh transports you to the 1920s, evoking life on safari during the heyday of the British Raj.

Sher Bagh is a pioneering camp of 10 luxurious tents, and 2 exceptional tented suites. Enjoy crackling campfires under star lit skies, where naturalists to share the facts of the forest. It’s a place where comfort, style and conservation meet.

The luxurious tents feature handcrafted, campaign style furniture made from rosewood and teak, all of which has been made especially for the camp. Each tent has its own veranda and wonderful bathrooms with twists of green marble and sandstone. Bathrooms have hot and cold running water as well as a sunken shower and specially made soaps.

The main lodge has a clean, spacious and airy feel to it, with 2 floors. The second floor includes a library/bar area, the perfect spot to relax with a drink between jungle adventures. There is also a swimming pool, surrounded by sun loungers with a spectacular view over the edge.

The Oberoi Vanyavilas:

Situated on the edge of Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve, The Oberoi Vanyavilās is a 20-acre, award-winning luxury jungle resort with unique air-conditioned, tented accommodations.

Take a private tiger safari around Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve. Sip Champagne at sunset atop The Oberoi Vanyavilās’ observation tower. Relax with a specially curated spa treatment. Experience a romantic, candlelit dinner, served by your personal butler in the amphitheater, or enjoy local specialties, live folk music, and traditional bonfires in the alfresco dining space.

It offers twenty five air-conditioned luxury tents with impeccable en suite facilities. The twenty five luxury tents, each 790sqft. all have private gardens and an outside deck for sunbathing. The tents feature king size four-poster beds, freestanding roll top baths and separate showers. All the tents have wooden floors and embroidered interior canopies and are furnished in regal style.

Aman-i-Khas:

Aman-i-Khás is an exclusive wilderness camp set in rugged countryside on the outskirts of Ranthambore National Park, surrounded by the starkly beautiful Aravalli Hills.

The smallest of all the Amans, the camp comprises of ten luxury sleeping tents which echo the rich Mughal travelling tents from a bygone era, each one constructed of canvas, with interior walls and ceilings draped in fine cotton. Each tent is a generous 108 square metres, with a soaring six-metre canopy, and three further rooms for sleeping, bathing and dressing.

The bedroom reflects a elegant Mughal style, luxurious and airy, with a king-size bed flanked by twin writing desks. The bathroom includes a shower, soaking tub and separate toilet, and the dressing room contains cupboards and twin vanities. There is also a sitting area outside on the deck. The tents are air-conditioned and can be heated during the chillier months.

There are three other tents at the camp; an intimate dining tent, a lounge tent and spa tent.

Six Senses Fort Barwara: (opening 15th October 2021)

Six Senses Fort Barwara has been developed within a 700-year-old fort overlooking the village of Chauth ka Barwara, in Rajasthan. Previously owned by the Rajasthani Royal Family, the fort was constructed in the 14th century by the Chauhans and sits opposite the temple of Chauth ka Barwara Mandir.

There are 48 suites ranging from 753 square feet (70 square meters) to 3,014 square feet (280 square meters). The East Wing overlooks the countryside and the West Wing offers views to Barwara village and beyond. Each accommodation is designed in contemporary Rajasthani style, reinterpreting the fort’s rich history while subtly incorporating state-of-the-art technology along with handmade mattresses, cotton bedding, and all the fundamentals for a good night’s sleep.

The three restaurants take you on a culinary journey of specialized Rajasthani-inspired fresh, sustainable cuisine.

The 30,000 square foot (2,800 square meters) Six Senses Spa and fitness center is located within the original women’s palace and both temples. It offers an extensive Ayurvedic “whole body” healing system, meditation, and personalized wellness programs based on the preventative principles of Eastern medicine and result-oriented Western influences.

Guests will be offered daily safari drives to Ranthambore National Park (30 minutes drive from the resort), famous for its tiger population as well as leopard, nilgai, wild boar, sambar, sloth bear, rhesus macaque and other wildlife, birds and reptiles.

Six Senses Fort Barwara is a three-hour drive from Jaipur and a 30-minute drive from Ranthambore National Park, where you can go in search of the region’s wild tigers.

Jawai National Park:

Jawai refers to the Jawai River, the Jawai Bandh Dam and the surrounding untamed wilderness. A rural scrubland area dotted with rugged granite formations, kopjes and sand river beds, Jawai supports a fantastic array of wildlife including sloth bears, antelopes, the Indian wolf, migratory birds and a large population of leopards, which can often be spotted roaming free through the wild terrain.

Accommodation in Jawai:

Sujan Jawai:

With spectacular views of a dramatic wilderness, life at Suján JAWAI celebrates the great outdoors. Spend unforgettable days on wilderness adventures and tracking leopards; breakfasts in the bush, yoga outdoors and delicious dinners under constellations of an unending starry sky.

It is the most sophisticated and ecological way to discover a truly enchanting landscape. A wander to outlying villages allows immersive experiences of local culture and insights into some of the camp’s brilliant community projects.

With just 10 tents including a Family and a Royal Suite, Jawai redefines sustainable luxury in the wilderness.

They are designed with an elegant and sophisticated use of pale canvas, stainless steel and leather furnishings and each tent has a private verandah that looks out over the surrounding wilderness. The Royal Tent is a triumph and is set a little away from the others. With the sleeping area leading into a spacious sitting room, this in turn leads out to a lovely sundeck and good sized heated pool which is surrounded by swaying grasses. The ultimate tent for those who crave space and privacy. Complete with your own private butler, a private jeep for wilderness game drives and spectacular views of Jawai’s dramatic, granite hills, it doesn’t get more spoiling than this.

The leopard is one of JAWAI’s predominant attractions but there is so much more to see here besides the big cat. The animals co-exist alongside the vibrant and friendly Rabari herdsmen who inhabit the area and it is quite magical to go out walking with them in the early mornings – a rare opportunity.

Gujarat:

Gir Forest National Park:

The Gir National forest is best known for its Asiatic lions. If you want to enjoy an exciting safari and catch a good look of the king of the jungle, then head straight to Gir.

As well as the lions, the park is home to leopards, sloth bears, jungle cats, striped hyena, golden jackals, mongoose, and civets.

Accommodation in Sasan Gir:

Aramness Gir Safari Lodge: (opening 15th October 2021)

A remarkable new safari lodge on the edge of Sasan Gir National Park. Inspired by the charm of Gujarat villages, the lodge design balances the scales between traditional influence and elegant simplicity.

Situated on the fringe of the Sasan Gir National Park in Gujarat, India on former farmlands, Aramness Gir is the only luxury boutique hospitality offering in the state. Located within the 18 square kilometre area that skirts the National Park, Aramness Gir sits within a rarely undeveloped natural paradise in a protected teak forest. This forest is home to abundant bird and animal species freely roaming between the park, area and lodge.

It offers 18 suites, called kothis – meaning bungalow or small home – take their cue from the charmingly informal arrangement of local Gujarati village homes. Each kothi is a spacious double storey building that draws on the honesty of materials, and the sophistication of simplicity, with either one or two ground floor bedrooms in each, a sitting room, a luxurious and spacious bathroom with a tub and shower, as well as an outdoor shower.

All of the kothis have a cool shaded courtyard and a first-floor veranda which looks out over waterways and beyond to the dense teak forest. Here, guests can catch the breeze under the shade of clay tiled roofs. A small swimming pool, inspired by the characteristic Indian step wells features in each of the kothis and a series of jali screens, hand-carved from sandstone, cast dappled light over the room.

Access to Sasan Gir is by road. One can fly into Rajkot, Porbandar, or Diu Airports. There is an alternative airport which is operational only for private aircraft and helicopter transfer 35km away from the property at Keshod Airport


From Rajkot it is a 3 hour transfer
From Ahmedabad it is a 7 hour transfer
From Diu it is a 2.5 hour transfer
From Porbandar it is a 2.5 hour transfer
From Keshod it is a 45 min transfer

The Fern Gir Forest Lodge:

The Fern Gir Forest Resort is a luxury resort located close to the entrance of Gir National Park in Gujarat in India, famous for its Asiatic lions. The Fern has just 40 comfortable rooms and is the ideal base from which to explore the park.

Gir National Park is the only place to see the Asiatic lion in India, and was established in 1965 to ensure the survival of the species. The park is a mixture of deciduous scrub and dry savannah forests and contains around 525 lions alongside leopard, striped hyena, wild boar, golden jackal, mongoose and a range of deer. There are over 300 species of birds and 37 species of reptile.

The Fern Gir Forest Resort is the best place to stay if you want to view the wildlife, yet do not expect a classic wildlife lodge, it is very much a comfortable resort style hotel. There are just 40 rooms, leading in with the Fern Tents which are fully air-conditioned and offer a queen bed, LCD TV, indoor bathroom and a small sit-out.

Next up, the Winter Green Cottage are larger and they have a small balcony (either upstairs or ground level). The Fern Villas are all freestanding and have their own private garden to the rear and a small veranda to the front. The Hazel Suite is the most private of the rooms, with superb views over the Hiran River from your own veranda.

The Postcard Gir Wildlife Sanctuary:

Newest lodge opening in May 2021. It offers sixteen acres of mango orchards amid the raw, untamed, and unmistakably wild forest of Gir.

The 15-rooms offer plenty of privacy ensuring that the only sounds you hear are the sounds of migrating birds, or of course, the unmistakable roar of a welcoming lion.

The rooms are a modernist refuge in a surrounding that is as old as time itself. The rooms can be best described as, well, roomy, with ample light and space letting in the changing light, and views of the sprawling mango orchards.

The nearest airport is Diu Airport, 56 km from the property.

Velavadar National Park:

Spread over 34.52 sq km, Velavadar National Park has India’s largest population of Blackbuck. Guests may also see the endangered Indian Grey Wolf, Nilgai or Blue Bull, Striped Hyena, Indian Fox, Golden Jackal and many other species of mammals.

Beautiful Velavadar Blackbuck National Park is famous for its namesake antelope, which sport elegant spiraling horns as long as 65cm in mature males. In 2015 an estimated 14,000 blackbuck inhabited the park (a significant decrease from 25,000 of 2001), alongside nilgais (India’s largest antelope) and a wide range of bird species. If you’re lucky, you may even spot wolves, which are increasing in number.

Velavadar National Park and its nearby wetlands comprise an important Bird Area notified by Birdlife international. The park is a good place to watch grassland birds like Sandgrouse, Francolins, Quails, Saras Crane and Stolikza’s Bushchat.

In winter Velavdar National Park hosts the world’s largest harrier roost – Montagu’s Harrier, Pallid Harrier and Marsh Harrier can be seen in large numbers.

The Black Buck Lodge:

Nestled along the Velavadar National Park, The Blackbuck Lodge is set in several acres of plains owned by its promoters who hail from a village in Gujarat’s Kathiawad Peninsula just about an hour from Velavadar.

​Each of the 14 cottages of The Blackbuck Lodge are an en suite room with a patio, sitting area, bedroom, indoor and outdoor bathrooms, and a deck looking out to the exquisite beauty of the bush. The interiors are the right combination of the rustic and contemporary elegance – the bedrooms have polished wooden furniture and granite floors, rough-hewn stone walls, wooden logs carrying bedside lamps and an alcove along the window with mattresses and bolsters that can double as a sitting area with a view or a bed to sleep.

Assam:

Kaziranga National Park:

Since 2015 the number of rhinos has increased in Kaziranga National Park, as has the tiger population, with more sightings of cubs. Of the 167 tigers counted in Assam, more than 125 are believed to be at the Kaziranga National Park. Around 20 tiger cubs have been sighted in different pockets of the park. Although offering the highest density of tiger in India, the lush undergrowth and foliage make them harder to spot. Most visitors to Kaziranga go to experience the beauty of the landscape, the incredible birdlife and see wild elephant and one-horned rhino.

Accommodation in Kaziranga:

Diphlu River Lodge:

This wonderfully homely lodge is fantastically located on the banks of the River Diphlu and adjacent to the Kazingara National Park. Being this close of the vicinity of the park do not be surprised if you get a number of uninvited guests at mealtimes whilst dining under the beautiful sky.

Diphlu River Lodge offers accommodation for 24 guests at a time, ensuring an exclusive and serene experience. There are 8 individual cottages and 4 semi-detached cottages.

The raised cottages are made of natural materials like bamboo and wood, topped with thatched roofs to blend in with the forest surroundings. Each of the cottages is air conditioned and has their own en-suite with a fitted wardrobe.

Uttar Pradesh:

Dudhwa National Park:

The Dudhwa Tiger Reserve comprises of the Dudhwa National Park, Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary, Pilibhit Tiger Reserve and Kishanpur Wildlife Sanctuary.

The wildlife conservation success story of Dudhwa National Park has, until now, gone unnoticed. Rich with Indian rhinoceros, tiger, leopard and Barasingha deer, Dudhwa is one of India‘s most fabulous wildlife destinations and is well and truly open for business.

With tourism still in its infancy, it is almost guaranteed that you’ll have an exclusive wildlife experience with no other jeeps around.

Accommodation in Dudhwa:

Jaagir Lodge:

Once the hunting lodge of the British Governor, Jaagir Lodge is set within seven acres of woodland near the entrance to Dudhwa National Park. Comprising seven luxurious rooms and suites and two luxurious villas, or ‘jhaalas’, the lodge is furnished with antique fittings and rich fabrics for a feeling of understated opulence.

The lodge offers four luxury rooms, three luxury suites and two luxury villas. All of the rooms feature bespoke furniture and ensuite bathrooms, while the luxury suites also have a private verandah from where guests can admire the surrounding landscapes and gardens. The two villas are designed in a traditional Terai style with thatched roofs, and each accommodate up to five guests.

The lodge also has a small outdoor swimming pool, a library and an activity centre where guests can go to watch television, play board games or listen to talks from the lodge’s resident naturalists.

Karnataka:

Nagarhole National Park (including Kabini Wildlife Sanctuary)

The lush forests and marshlands of southern India’s Nagarahole National Park, also known as Rajiv Gandhi National Park, form one of the country’s premier tiger destinations. Backed by the hills of the Western Ghats, the park is filled with fragrant sandalwood and teak trees, thick groves of bamboo, and dozens of winding streams.

A jeep safari is the best option to spot big cats, while a slow drift in a coracle—a small round boat—along the Kabini River offers prime viewing opportunities for aquatic birds, crocodiles, and Indian elephants.

Kabini wildlife sanctuary is a smaller part of the Nagarhole National Park. It houses a number of endangered and rare wild animals including Black Panthers, Indian leopards, Tigers, Indian bison, mugger crocodiles and Indian rock python.

Accommodation in Kabini:

Evolve Back Kuruba Safari Lodge:

Evolve Back Kuruba Safari Lodge is an incredibly picturesque resort and has been created in an authentic village style, inspired by the Hadis (tribal villages) nearby. Each of the 30 well-appointed huts are incredibly spacious and offer understated luxury with a hint of safari style. All the villas come complete with a comfortable living room, bedroom and en suite bathroom as well as a private courtyard, with either a Jacuzzi or plunge pool.

This is the best place to stay close to Nagarhole National Park. Wildlife sightings have been very successful including sightings of the elusive black leopard. Guests safari in an eight-seater jeep only available from Evolve Back Kabini, avoiding the larger cantors usually operating in the national park.

The Bison Resort:

Serene and tranquil through the day yet exciting and stimulating at night; the Bison Resort Kabini is the first of its kind in India that offers something rustic and luxurious at the very edge of adventure.

The Bison is situated at the confluence of the Bandipur and Nagarhole National Parks, on the shores of the exotic Kabini River. The Bison takes pride in being the only African styled Tented Camp in South India. All the rooms are spacious and cozy and come with a stunning view. The accommodation at the Bison Resort in Kabini is an oasis of luxury amidst the wilderness. The resort offers three types of accommodation – Deluxe Luxury Tent, Deluxe Luxury Machan and Suite Cottage.

Each tent is lavishly furnished with four-poster double beds, couches, writing and dressing tables, full length mirrors and arm chairs. En-suite bathrooms with expansive showers are a virtual treat. Enjoy watching elephants graze, gaur in herds, boar and the occasional big cat, if you’re lucky, from your tent. The Observation Deck is beautiful place to spend the day and watch the world and its wildlife go by.

Maharashtra:

Tadoba National Park

Tadoba National Park is one of the most prominent and unique tiger reserves in India. The landscape is varied, comprising of cliffs, caves, marshes, perennial lakes and boulder strewn streambeds that cater to a host of biodiversity, not least the tiger but also many other endangered species, including leopard and sloth bear.

Accommodation in Tadoba:

Svasara Jungle Lodge:

An upscale jungle eco-lodge set over a sprawling 10-acres, the Lodge offers beautiful views of the Tadoba hills and the forest. At Svasara, you experience an indigenous jungle with uniquely designed guest areas from the outside, while inside the lodge you relax in the comfort of elegant luxury set in safari chic interiors.

Svasara is a stone’s throw from Tadoba’s Kolara Gate—any closer and it would be inside! The Lodge is 100 kilometres (2-hours driving distance) from the city of Nagpur, Maharashtra.

Svasara Lodge has 12 spacious luxurious suites with all the modern amenities like air conditioners, 24-hour hot & cold water, full power backup, in-room safe locker, fridge, tea/coffee maker, satellite TV, private sitting courtyard, and more.

Ladakh:

Hemis National Park:

Located in the high-altitude mountains in the eastern Ladakh union territory, Hemis National Park is renowned for its snow leopards across the globe. According to few experts, this species is found at the highest density in this area.

Besides the height and big cats, there are a few more attributes that make this place very special. It is the second-largest contiguous protected area, the largest notified protected area (largest national park), and the only national park in the north of the Himalayas. The park provides shelter to a large number of endangered species and it is also a part of the Palearctic realm.

Besides snow leopards, you can also spot Shapu, Asiatic ibex, Bharat (blue sheep), Argali (Great Tibetan Sheep), and multiple species of birds as well.

Accommodation in Hemis National Park:

Snow Leopard Lodge:

Snow Leopard Lodge is located at just under 4,000 metres above sea level in the remote Ulley Valley and is the only dedicated wildlife lodge in the area of Ladakh. The lodge is simple but provides everything you need to explore this spectacular area.

Nestled into the landscape at the heart of Ulley Village, Snow Leopard Lodge offers homestay style accommodation with just 6 bedrooms. Here you really have the chance for a special and immersive experience as you will be living with a Ladakhi family giving an intimate insight into their lifestyle in this harsh and extreme landscape. The area surrounding the Snow Leopard Lodge has only recently been developed and explored for snow leopard watching and has the benefit of being at the centre of three valleys, under the radar for mass tourism, and known for supporting several snow leopards.

Route Combinations:

You always have the choice of exploring one location in its entirety, and stay upto 4 Nights or longer, as per your preference.

But in case you decide to have a circuit route, incorporating 2/3 Nights at each location then below can a few suggestions worth considering:

Route 1: The Big Cats of India (Lion, Snow Leopard, Tiger, Leopard)

This is the ultimate wildlife adventure in India, a journey through deserts, Himalayan mountains and jungle in search of its iconic cats – Bengal tigers, Indian leopards, Asiatic lions and snow leopards – that will also be a unique experience of this vast country’s diverse culture and spectacular landscapes.

DAYS 1-4: GIR FOREST NATIONAL PARK
DAYS 4-5: DELHI
DAYS 5-8: LEH
DAYS 8-15: ULLEY
DAYS 14-15: LEH
DAYS 15-18: RANTHAMBORE
DAYS 18-19: SHAHPURA BAGH
DAYS 19-22: JAWAI

Route 2: India Wildlife Adventure in Less-Traveled Parks

This is the ultimate India experience for nature lovers. Boost your chances of seeing elusive Bengal tigers—plus a host of other Indian wildlife—on visits to three different national parks with some of India’s most concentrated tiger populations.

Most travelers go to Ranthambore National Park at peak season, which is heavily advertised and very crowded. While this route includes equally tiger-rich Bandhavgarh National Park, it also takes you to visit Kanha and Kaziranga, which are more remote with far fewer tourists.

Kanha also offers some of India’s best tiger-viewing possibilities, while Kaziranga offers a great chance to see rhinos up close, as well as wild elephants. You’ll also have a chance to see seven deer species and more than 600 bird species—an impressive diversity of wildlife.

Day 1: Delhi

Day 2: Jabalpur / Bandhavgarh National Park

Days 3 & 4: Bandhavgarh National Park

Day 5: Bandhavgarh / Kanha National Park & Tiger Reserve

Days 6 & 7: Kanha National Park

Day 8: Kanha / Raipur / Kolkata

Day 9: Jorhat / Haroocharai Tea Estate / Kaziranga National Park

Days 10 & 11: Kaziranga National Park

Day 12: Guwahati / Delhi

Route 3: Wild IndiaBandhavgarh National Park, Kanha National Park, Pench Tiger Reserve, Satpura National Park

A rugged wilderness home to a myriad of wildlife, including the famed Bengal tiger, this itinerary offers the ultimate central India experience, involving remote lodges, luxury tented camps and safaris in four of India’s most prolific national parks.

Days 1-2: Delhi

Days 2-5: Bandhavgarh National Park

Days 5-8: Kanha National Park

Days 8-11: Pench National Park

Days 11-14: Satpura National Park

Days 14-15: Delhi

Route 4: Wildlife of North & South India – Featuring National Parks in Central India, Assam and Karnataka (Satpura, Kanha, Kaziranga, Nagarhole/Kabini)

A unique wildlife tour of India created specifically for wildlife enthusiasts. This 16-day tour includes visits to four of India’s most rewarding National Parks – Satpura, Kanha, Kaziranga and Nagarhole – and covers the states of Madhya Pradesh, Assam and Karnataka.

This itinerary is aimed at naturalists and wildlife lovers. It highlights the diversity of ecosystems in India: the marshland and tropical broadleaf forest of Kaziranga in the North East; the grassy meadows and dry deciduous forests of Kanha in Central India; the dense forest and rugged sandstone peaks and gorges of Satpura, also in Central India; and the swamp and moist deciduous forest of Nagarhole in the South.

Day 1: Delhi

Day 2-4: Satpura

Day 5-7: Kanha

Day 8: Delhi

Day 9-11: Kaziranga

Day 12: Kolkata

Day 13-15: Nagarhole

Day 16: Bangalore

Route 5: North India Wildlife In Depth – National Parks of Pench, Kanha, Ranthambhore, Bandhavgarh

Discover four of the best national parks of India, with this indepth wildlife tour of India that will reveal to you the best of its natural environment and wildlife.

This itinerary has been crafted with wildlife enthusiasts in mind. Including visits to the four national parks of Pench, Kanha, Bandavagarh and Ranthambore and expert naturalists to lead you on morning and afternoon jeep safaris at every park. Search for tigers in India and other wildlife during your safaris and stay in some of our favourite wildlife lodges close to the parks.

Day 1-2: Delhi

Day 3-4: Pench National Park

Day 5-7: Kanha

Day 8-10: Bandhavgarh

Day 11: Delhi

Day 12-13: Ranthambhore

Day 14-16: Jaipur

Route 6: The Ultimate India Wildlife Safari

Experience the highlights of this diverse and vibrant country on this immersive safari across India. Discover the wildlife of four different national parks – including tigers, leopards, lions, elephants and rhinos.

Starting off in the bustling city of Mumbai, you will journey to Sasan Gir National Park, the last bastion of the endangered Asiatic lion, before exploring Kanha and Pench National Parks, two of the best parks for tiger viewing.

DAY 1: MUMBAI

DAY 2: MUMBAI

DAY 3: MUMBAI – DIU – SASAN GIR NATIONAL PARK

DAYS 4-5: SASAN GIR NATIONAL PARK

DAY 6: SASAN GIR NATIONAL PARK – DIU – MUMBAI

DAY 7: MUMBAI – RAIPUR – KANHA NATIONAL PARK

DAYS 8-9: KANHA NATIONAL PARK

DAY 10: KANHA NATIONAL PARK – PENCH NATIONAL PARK

DAYS 11-12: PENCH NATIONAL PARK

DAY 13: PENCH – NAGPUR – MUMBAI – LUCKNOW

DAY 14: LUCKNOW

DAYS 15-16: LUCKNOW – DUDHWA NATIONAL PARK

DAY 17: DUDHWA NATIONAL PARK – LUCKNOW – DELHI

Route 7: Hills, Tigers and Leopards (Kanha National Park, Bandhavgarh National Park, Jawai)

India’s central region is home to a diverse array of wildlife, including healthy populations of the widely sought Indian leopard and Bengal Tiger. This trip is perfect for those with a keen interest in nature, taking you through diverse landscapes in search of these majestic animals, alongside a wealth of other wildlife and some striking scenery.

The trip begins in two of India’s most impressive national parks, Kanha and Bandhavgarh, to enjoy daily game drives before heading off the common tourist trail to the untamed wilderness of Jawai. Here, you will stay in the truly exceptional luxury tented camp of Sujan Jawai whilst spending the days in search of leopards that dot its sandy river bends and craggy terrain. The trip ends in Udaipur, an enchanting lakeside city flanked by Rajasthan’s ruggred Aravalli Hills.

Day 1 – 2 : Delhi

Days 2 – 5 : Kanha National Park

Days 5 – 8 : Bandhavgarh National Park

Day 8 – 9 : Delhi

Days 9 – 12 : Jawai

Days 12 – 15 : Udaipur

Route 8: Off-beat Central India Safari – Tadoba, Pench & Satpur

With three small private eco-lodges providing a comfortable base, visit Pench, famous for its leopard sightings, be introduced to the greater conservation issues whilst at Tadoba, and explore the newly opened Bori Sanctuary whilst staying at uncharted and unspoiled Satpura.

DAY 1: MUMBAI – BHOPAL – SATPURA

DAYS 2-3: SATPURA NATIONAL PARK

DAY 4: SATPURA – PENCH NATIONAL PARK

DAYS 5-6: PENCH NATIONAL PARK

DAY 7: PENCH – TADOBA NATIONAL PARK

DAYS 8-9: TADOBA NATIONAL PARK

DAY 10: TADOBA – NAGPUR – MUMBAI

How to Book:

Since above involves the best of wildlife journeys in India. I suggest booking a tailor made journey customised to suit your preferences and expectations. Hence it is advisable to use services of a wildlife and safari specialist like Experiential Travel Journeys Pvt. Ltd., as they are based out of New Delhi, is a boutique travel design company and have the ability, connections and local knowledge to help you plan a private safari trip in India of a lifetime.

– Amit Kalsi, Private Travel Designer


Published by experientialtraveljourneys

A Private Travel Designer specialising in private, luxury, experiential, transformational, off-beat, off-the-grid, bespoke, tailor-made, bespoke, authentic, sustainable journeys to destinations worldwide.

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