Hidden Wildlife Destinations of India

Wildlife travel is one of the most exciting forms of travel one can engage in. The world is full of wonderful natural spectacles which most see only on documentary channels on the television. And yet there is no replacement for witnessing these wonders for oneself.

The most common wildlife trips that many of us do or think of is a safari to Kenya to witness the charismatic wildlife found there as well as to witness the Great Migration, or to some well-known parts of India such as Ranthambore to come face to face with the Bengal Tiger.

But there are far more destinations, and wildlife spectacles than this out there,

Not far from Sri Lanka in India itself, there are many wonders of nature which is lesser known or visited compared to the more famous tiger parks.

One such place is Kaziranga National Park. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site boasting a multitude of natural wonders. Located on the far North Eastern Corner of India in the state of Assam, it is almost separated from India itself in its location, and also boasts a unique landscape, habitat and even people with their unique culture and cuisine unlike any other part of mainland India.

This is a lush green land, which is home to 2/3rd of the world’s last remaining population of the Greater Indian One Horned Rhinoceroses. Once almost extinct, Kaziranga became one of wildlife conservations greatest success stories thanks to the dedicated wildlife rangers who protected the last remaining Rhino’s with their lives, and thus resulted in a revival in its population.

These ancient creatures are almost mythological in appearance, with the appearance of an armored tank. They are the second largest species if Rhino in the world, second only to the White Rhinoceroses of Africa.

Kaziranga is the best place in the world to get close encounters with these armor plated giants who roam freely in this land.

But do not be mistaken, the park is not only famous of its Rhino’s, the latest surveys have revealed that the park is also home to the highest concentration of Bengal Tigers. Experts claim that the tigers found in Kaziranga are the largest seen in India. There have also been reports of large male tigers killing and feeding on Rhinoceroses, which is no mean feat.

In recent years a special find revealed a rare genetic mutated tiger found in this park, which has an almost golden like appearance. Known commonly as a “Strawberry” or “Golden” Tiger these tigers have a mix between light golden to white in coloration, giving it a unique and distinctive color. The findings revealed there are four such rare individuals found in this park.

Kaziranga is also a birdwatchers paradise with over 478 recorded bird species, and some which are very charismatic and unique to the region. One of the most iconic bird species to find on a safari in Kaziranga would undoubtedly be the Greater Hornbill. A massive bird with a distinctive bill which gives it its name.

Further you will see numerous other species of animals while on safari such as the Asian Elephant, Wild Asiatic Water Buffalo, Hog Deer, Swamp Deer, Short Tailed Macaque, Clawless Otter, Hoolock Gibbon, Golden Langur and much more.

Not only is the land blessed but also its waters. The mighty river Brahmaputra runs across this land and these waters are home to one of the rarest and most endangered mammals, the Gangetic River Dolphin.

The wilds of Kaziranga hence is a must visit location for anyone interested in truly seeing a unique wildlife spectacle.

Then we move to another exotic location in India itself, but far to the West, in the state of Gujarat. This dry and arid region is home to a vast multitude of unique wildlife, and wilderness areas. Firstly you have the open savannah type grasslands of Velavadar also known as Blackbuck Sanctuary, which is one of the last homes of the endangered and beautiful Indian Blackbuck, a stunning antelope with long spiral shaped horns. They are found only in the Indian subcontinent, and is found in large numbers in Velavadar. The grasslands are home to two of the Blackbucks’ main predators, the iconic Indian Wolf, who was the subject of the stories of the Jungle Book as well as the beautifully colored Indian Striped Hyena. This park is the best place in India to spot these two iconic predators. The area is a photographer’s dream, as the morning lighting which hits the grasslands glow up the region to a beautiful golden hue, and to photograph a Wolf or Hyena in this setting is simply magical.

Then moving onto the most famous park in Gujarat, we come to Gir National Park which is home to the last population of Asiatic Lions in the world. Once found across Southern Europe, Middle East and Asia, this region is now the last home of these amazing big cats. Different from their African cousins in many ways, the best way to identify an Asiatic Lion is by their loose belly fold of skin which is not seen on African Lions, and also their large ears, and dark manes on the lions. Once almost hunted extinctions, these amazing predators are seeing a great revival with its population booming. A safari in Gir National Park will get you some amazing sightings of these iconic and majestic felines, as well as other wildlife such as the Indian Leopard, Blue Nilgai Antelope and much more.
Thus as a wildlife and nature enthusiasts, there are many more places beyond the conventional destinations in India waiting to be explored.
About the author- Rajiv Welikala is the Lead Tour Manager for Classic Wild, Sri Lanka’s leading wildlife based travel company, as well as an acclaimed wildlife photographer, author and safari guide leading tours worldwide and in Sri Lanka.
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