Booking your wildlife safari trip to India.
India is the seventh-largest country in the world with almost one-fourth of the nation’s geographical area under forest cover. It encompasses a wide range of biomes: desert, high mountains, highlands, tropical and temperate forests, swamplands, plains, grasslands, areas surrounding rivers, as well as an island archipelago. India has 4 out of 36 biodiversity hotspots in the world which are the Eastern Himalayas, Western Himalayas, Western Ghats, and Andaman and the Nicobar Islands. These hotspots have numerous endemic species. There are 46 Ramsar sites and almost 500 important bird areas or IBA are present in India. To date, many new species of invertebrates (mostly insects), and vertebrate species (mostly fishes and reptiles) were discovered in the recent past.
A wildlife safari in this bio-geographical haven is an incredible way to encounter nature and its diverse inhabitants. Sheltering a variety of flora and fauna, India is currently listed as 8th in the most biodiverse region. Almost all National Parks and wildlife sanctuaries in India require permits and some necessary changes which need to be paid for during or before entry.
These permits are booked in advance before the date of safari in different parks and booking them requires an identity card accepted by the government of India. Booking a wildlife safari in India all by yourself could be tricky. One has to be experienced and knowledgeable to book a perfect wildlife safari in India. But, don’t worry, we’re here to help you out. Here’s the latest guide to booking a wildlife safari tour in India.
Factors to consider while booking a tour to India.
While planning a wildlife safari tour, a little consultation or guidance from a wildlife tour operator or an expert, somebody who knows the Indian jungle like the back of their hand, is of prime importance. This can make or break your wildlife or tiger safari tour in India. The important factors that influence the selection of a wildlife safari destination are as below:
Limited time and money –
There are various constraints like limited time at a destination and the money you’re willing to pay for the tour. Everyone likes to get value for their money. Therefore,it is necessary to access these factors in order to further narrow down your list of destinations.
Species found –
India is amongst the best countries for a wildlife safari tour with 410 species of mammals, 1357 species of birds out of which 79 are endemic to the Indian subcontinent, 518 species of reptiles, and almost 6000 species of insects. As per the Zoological Survey of India, there were 557 new species added to its list of fauna making the count to 1,02,718 faunal species. It is recommended to do research and create a checklist of mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects before a wildlife safari tour. It is important to have clarity on what you would like to see on your visit to the National Parks. Some unique wildlife safari tours in India are:
- Red Panda Tour- The Red Panda inhabits the forests of Singalila National Park in West Bengal.
- Black Leopard Tour- -The Black Panther or melanistic leopard is on the wish list of anyone who’s familiar with ‘Bagheera’ from the ‘Jungle Book’ in the Nagarhole National Park
- Snow Leopard Tour – Search for the snow leopard in the high-altitude peaks of Kibber and Leh
- Greater One Horned Rhinoceros.- In the Kaziranga National Park
Accessibility of the safari destination –
The connectivity between safari destinations and the nearest airport or railway station is an important factor before finalizing any wildlife tour as it results in a safer, less tiring journey and affordable travel. But, there are two sides to this. Sometimes, if the safari destination is well connected, it could also mean that the National park or wildlife sanctuary is too crowded with tourists, especially over the weekends. On the flip side, if it isn’t well connected, there is a lot more road travel involved which could make it a tiring experience, however, this would also mean that the park is not frequented by everybody. It is only visited by those who truly wish to see unique wildlife in a particular destination.
Types of accommodation –
Accommodation is another important factor as mostly all the wildlife lodges provide rooms per night with meals, safaris and other jungle activities. There might be a variety of accommodation from small homestays, hotels to luxury wildlife lodges with all the amenities. It is recommended to select an accommodation closer to zones available for wildlife safari.
Types of safari options –
There is a multitude of safaris available in almost all Indian jungles. It is important to apprise yourself of the various safari options available, before booking a tour. The most common safari vehicle used is a gypsy or jeep safari. For larger groups, often an open-top bus or Canter is used. There might also be other options for safaris depending on the geographical features of the National park or wildlife sanctuary. Some other options like Boat safari, safari on foot or walking safari, balloon safari, elephant safari, self-drive, and many more are available in different national parks. More options help double the chances of sightings and overall experience.
Recommended Nights –
Certain safari destinations require a minimum number of nights to have more chances of sightings. Although wildlife sightings are based on luck and the ability of your guide to track down tiger trails, one has to be present at the right time and at the right place to have the best safari experience. Therefore, for any given park, we always recommend a minimum of 03 nights to experience it in all aspects.
Permit and other charges –
Wildlife safari tours in various National Parks and wildlife sanctuaries are generally conducted in two shifts – morning and afternoon. Before entering any National park or wildlife sanctuary it is important to pay entry charges for the permit which authorizes tourists to enter the park. These permits can be obtained online from state government portals for safari bookings or the counter or at the entry gate of these National parks.
For parks in the state of Madhya Pradesh, the booking of permits starts 120 days before the start of safari and there may be differences in advance date for booking a safari in national parks and wildlife sanctuaries of other states. It is the most important document before entering the National Park. There are also other charges which need to be paid like camera charges which are paid per entry and may vary with different parks.
Best Naturalists, guides, and drivers –
There are two categories of guides available in the central Indian National parks and wildlife sanctuaries. What it is called in Central India are G1 and G2, G1 is of higher grade with good communication skills, guides who are also fluent with a foreign language, i.e. English. However G2 guides also have tremendous knowledge about the parks. If you have a translator there then you will never have better knowledge gained by any other guide than some old G2 guides from Central Indian Parks. But this may vary across the different National parks of India.
Safari drivers are another integral part of a wildlife safari tour because of their knowledge of the routes within a zone or area in a National Park. With their skills, knowledge, and experience they increase the chances of successful wildlife sightings. When any wildlife is at sight then a good driver ensures a safe distance between the wildlife and safari vehicle. They also ensure the perfect angle to capture the best possible photograph without creating any distractions for the wildlife.
Naturalists are the ones who are trained to provide you with an interpretive experience. These individuals are trained about guiding photography in every aspect of wildlife. They will be able to provide you with knowledge about the world’s wildlife. Some of the Naturalists could be an encyclopedia in some subjects. These people have chosen the profession for their passion to learn and educate more.
Why is it recommended to choose a tour operator?
A tour operator organizes and combines accommodation to stay at the destination, meals, sightseeing, and transportation components to create a tour package that is more convenient and feasible for the person visiting that destination. Before choosing a tour operator for booking a wildlife safari tour in India, there are a few important things like Travel industry experience, reviews on TripAdvisor, Google reviews, guest testimonials, and many more points which you should consider before taking their services.
Here is the list of reasons why it is recommended to choose a tour operator before booking a wildlife safari tour in India. A tour operator looks into small details and factors that influence the selection of a wildlife safari destination.
- They are helpful in planning a trip for a limited time and budget constraints. They help in getting the best value out of your wildlife safari tour in India.
- They can do the booking for individuals to large groups of people.
- An experienced wildlife tour operator is knowledgeable about the species found. They understand your needs and create an itinerary or a tour package that is more convenient. They can add more destinations which would further enhance the experience at a marginal cost.
- They are well versed with the routings and destinations and will provide you with the best tour package as per your requirements.
- Tour operators know the best accommodation in a particular category at a safari destination. They suggest hotels based on your budget which have great service.
- An experienced tour operator would encourage you to try other safari options to enhance the overall safari experience. They might get you a better deal for accommodation along with desired activities.
- They recommend the ideal no. of overnight stays at a safari destination so that sightings of particular species of animals, birds, reptiles, and insects can be spotted.
- The tour operators are well equipped to book permits on the government portals or at the entrance gate of the National Park through their ground handling agents.
- Experienced tour operators work with the best naturalists, guides, and drivers.
Overall tour operators make the process of booking a wildlife safari tour much more convenient, feasible, and well-curated. Therefore, before taking any wildlife safari tour in India it is advised to consult a tour operator.
Explore our Tiger Safari in India Tours here.