India claims 13 biosphere reserves, numerous national parks and close to 500 wildlife sanctuaries. Species number 30 000 for insects, 2000 for birds, over 500 for mammals and as many reptiles and amphibians.
It would take a lifetime to see them all but most visitors hope to spot a leopard or a tiger, wild elephants, resident and migrant birds and in the Gir National Park, the last Asiatic lions.
Among the most popular areas for safari, lovers are the Ranthambore, Bandhavgarh and Corbett National Parks.
Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan Indian Tigers
Framed by the Vindhya and Aravali hills on the outskirts of the Thar desert, Ranthambore, the former hunting ground of the Jaipur Maharajah, became a national park in 1980.
Covering 400 km² adjacents to the Sawai Man Singh reserve, it is best known for its diurnal tigers who prowl among the ancient ruins, unperturbed by visitors.
From deciduous forests watered by rivers and man-made lakes to swathes of desert, the park is home to myriad birds, leopards, jungle cats, deer, monkeys, hyenas, and other creatures.
Residents include marsh crocodiles, desert monitors, vipers and Indian pythons.
Easy access from Delhi makes Ranthambore an all-time favorite and jeep and open truck safaris are on offer.
The main park is open from October to mid-June.
Indian Wildlife and Safaris, Bandhavgarh in Madhya Pradesh
The white tigers of Rewa have earned their place in the history books but in its 437 km², Bandhavgarh continues to claim the world’s largest concentration of Bengal tigers.
The main sighting area is in the central hills around the fort and jeep safaris are held at dawn or late afternoon, at their best between January and April.
The altitude varies from 410 to 810 meters and there are sal forests and open meadows, swampy valleys and rocky hills and 20 or so streams flowing into the river Son.
Only the Tala range is open to visitors but that’s enough to spot some of the 37 species of mammals or 250 of birds, such as the Sarus cranes who breed on the grasslands during the wet season.
Corbett National Park in Uttar Pradesh
In the foothills of the Himalaya, the Corbett National Park has its share of tigers, crocodiles, and deer but it is best known for leopards and majestic herds of wild elephants.
The rare fishing cat may also be spotted, along with sloth bears, jackals, wild dogs, langur, and rhesus monkeys and mountain goats. Over 580 species of birds have been recorded.
The park is open from November to June and jeep and elephant safaris are available in some areas.
Trees vary according to altitude, over 100 species altogether, 51 kinds of shrubs and 33 of bamboo and grass.