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On the Trail of the Wild
Indian jungles teem with flora and fauna, come summer. As the denizens come out to bask in the morning sun, tourists can get exciting views of the otherwise elusive wildlife. While sighting a tiger remains the coveted desire of many, Indian jungles house other exciting species, encountering whom can be a thrilling adventure.
Snow Leopards, Hemis National Park (Ladakh)
Home to the endangered snow leopard, Hemis National Park, in Ladakh, is a delight for explorers. The snow leopard, a medium-sized cat, is noted for its smoky-grey fur that is patterned with black rosettes, an ideal camouflage against rocky slopes. So don't be surprised if you see a glowing pair of eyes from behind a rocky outcrop, a favoured spot of a snow leopard that provides it a clear view and a good cover. Dawn and dusk are the best times to sight the cat as it is most active then. Your best bet to spot the leopard is near rugged terrains, at a height of 5,000 m in the Himalayas.
Lined with Western Himalayan alpine shrubs, Himalayan subtropical pine forests, Himalayan alpine tundra and meadows, Hemis National Park offers a glimpse of the varied flora of Ladakh. Besides the snow leopard, Shapu sheep is the main attraction. You can also come across bharal (blue sheep), the endangered Eurasian brown bear, red fox, Tibetan wolf and great Tibetan sheep. The place also holds such delights as Himalayan Griffon vulture, Himalayan snowcock, gold eagle, leaf warbler, etc. for birdwatchers.
Best Time to Visit: May to early October
Asiatic Lion, Gir National Park (Gujarat)
To find the majestic lions prowling around freely, Gir National Park is the only place in the world besides the jungles of Africa. The entire forest of the park is dry and deciduous and is thus the ideal habitat for the Asiatic lion. Lions and leopards are the main attraction of the park. Besides, one can also spot species like sambar deer, chowsingha (the world’s only four-horned antelope), jackal, India fox, hyena etc. Moreover, the park invites birdwatchers as well who come to view more than 200 species sheltered here. Some of the prominent ones are the endangered white-backed and long-billed vultures. The forest is also home to more than 40 species of reptiles and amphibians. To spot Marsh crocodiles in large numbers, one can visit the Kamleshwar reservoir in the sanctuary. Some of the snakes that reside here are the king cobra, the saw-scaled viper, the krait and Russell's viper.
Best Time to Visit: December to March
One-horned rhinoceros, Kaziranga National Park (Assam)
About two-thirds of the world's rare one-horned rhinoceros call the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kaziranga National Park, home. Weighing about 3,000 kg, rhinos are the fourth-largest mammals on earth and are mostly found along the whole Indo-Gangetic stretch.
Kaziranga is fringed by the mighty Brahmaputra river and encompasses wetlands, forests and grasslands, which shelter a sizeable population of tigers as well. Moreover, the park is an abode of world-famous snakes - the rock python, the reticulated python and the king cobra, the longest venomous snake.
While eastern swamp deer and wild water buffalo are common sights, if you're lucky, you can also spot a herd of elephants making their way grandly through the park. One of the key attractions of the park are the 4WD safaris that help you explore the park better.
Kaziranga is an important area for migratory birds and also houses the endangered Ganges river dolphin. If you wish to take the safari on an elephant back, make sure you make advance bookings as this is the most popular way to explore the hidden gems of the national park. The park was declared as a tiger reserve in 2006, and is divided into five different ranges. The central Kohora range and western Bagori range offer the most amazing wildlife sightings. The park is surrounded by ancient temples, pristine waterfalls and lush tea estates.
Best Time to Visit: November to April
Elephants, Manas National Park (Assam)
Best known for its population of elephants, apart from tigers and the one-horned rhinoceros, Manas National Park lies at the base of the Bhutan-Himalayas foothills, just when alluvial grasslands begin. The park offers sightings of faunae like hispid hare, pygmy hog and Assam roofed turtle. The park is also home to the largest number of the endangered Bengal florican.
Best Time to Visit: October to May
Jawai Leopard Camp
Best Time to Visit: October to April
Rajaji National Park
Best Time to Visit: November to June
Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary
Best Time to Visit: October to May
Great Himalayan National Park
Best Time to Visit: March to mid-September