Read this to find out everything you need to know about the best places to see Indian wildlife while on your travels to this incredible country. The natural wealth of India has become famous worldwide through books and countless documentaries like those made by National Geographic.
There are stacks of wild animals to be found on the Indian subcontinent. This is due to the country’s extraordinary landscapes that range from the steamy jungles of the western ghats to the snowy peaks of the Himalayas.
Many travellers want to incorporate a bit of wildlife watching when travelling to India hence the need for this post. Click the link provided to learn more about how to plan your dream trip and make it a reality.
How many wildlife reserves and sanctuaries are there in India?
Even though India’s protected areas cover just 1.23% of its landmass, that still equates to 40501.13 square kilometres. That space is divided into 104 national parks and wildlife sanctuaries across the country.
Is India rich in wildlife?
India is home to 8% of all the species found on earth. With 1301 recorded species of birds, India is an ornithologist’s dream. Indeed the country draws in massive numbers of twitchers every year, so If bird watching is your thing, India should definitely be on your bucket list.
There are also four hundred ten species of mammals that can be found here. That’s 8.86% of all the species to be found on earth! That staggering number includes such magnificent beasts as the Indian one-horned rhinoceros, stripped Hyena, Asian Elephant, Bengali Tiger, Snow leopard, Indian leopard, Indian wild dog, and the entire world’s population of Asiatic Lions, to name just a few.
There are also 518 species of reptiles, including 279 species of snakes and 410 species of amphibians. Botanists can rejoice aswell because there are 18000 species of plants to checkout and an undetermined number of insects. Put bluntly, India is a wildlife enthusiasts’ paradise.
Seven sensational places to see wildlife in India
Find diverse wildlife species at Indian National Parks such as elephants, leopards, rhinoceros, birds and river dolphins. Beyond the bustling capitals of India, nature fans can enjoy a peaceful sanctuary full of wild wildlife.
A vast range of animals can be spotted in teak forests, grassland forests, mountain lakes, rivers and other natural areas in India.
Kaziranga National Park
Kaziranga national park is now a UNESCO world heritage site and quite rightly so. There are other major protected areas here in the country’s Northeast, such as Manas national park and the massive Namdapha national park, but this one is the most famous.
What animals are in Kaziranga?
Kaziranga national park provides a home for thirty-five mammalian species, of which fifteen are on the endangered animals’ red list. These numbers include the worlds largest population of the great Indian rhinoceros and a significant population of wild tigers.
If that isn’t reason enough to visit Kaziranga national park, it also boasts massive numbers of both resident and migratory birds. I strongly recommend bringing binoculars as they will help you spot the many wild animals here with greater precision.
As well as the mammals and birds, the park is also home to two of the most giant snakes to be found anywhere on the planet. The reticulated python and the Indian rock python can grow to epic proportions that have to be Hollywood film worthy. There are also vast numbers of the worlds largest venomous snakes, the king cobra.
Keoladeo Ghana national park
The Keoladeo national park is only 29 Square kilometres. Yet it is still regarded as one of the most critical bird breeding sights in the world and is now another UNESCO world heritage site. It is also known simply as Ghana or Bharatpur bird sanctuary. Of all the wildlife sanctuaries in India, this is one of my absolute favs.
Over the monsoon period, much of the park becomes submerged. Aquatic birds from Afghanistan to Siberia flock here, including the incredibly rare Siberian crane.
For me, the best thing about Keoladeo national park is the absence of large predators. That means visitors are free to take walking safaris! This is sure to get you closer to the wild animals that we have all come to see. It is also close to Delhi and very affordable. Visiting this little slice of the wild is a win-win situation for any nature lover.
What animals are in Kheoladeo ghana national park?
There are 366 species of birds in the park, and some are not hard to see at all. Most people just come here for the birds.
However, the park is also home to 379 floral species, 50 species of fish, 13 species of snakes, five species of lizards, seven amphibian species, seven turtle species, and 27 mammal species. That list includes such delights as the Indian Mongoose, porcupine, Golden Jakal, smooth-coated Otters and several deer species.
Hemis national park
In the far reaches of Northern India lies the extensive Hemis National Park. Despite its harsh and unyielding landscape, it is home to many species.
It is important to remember the only way to see this massive expanse of wilderness is on your own two feet. You can easily organise this by walking the Markha Valley trek as it passes right through the national park. Be warned that this is not an easy walk as it takes days, so you need to be reasonably fit to try it.
What animals are in Hemis National Park?
Most noticeably is the critically endangered snow leopards that roam these hills. There are over two hundred in Hemis national park making this place a lifeline for these beautiful beasts.
Snow leopards are solitary creatures and require a vast range. In all reality, it is unlikely you will see one outside of the dead of winter when even the snow leopard thinks it’s too cold and they come down in search of a more palatable climate.
You are far more likely to catch a glimpse of one of the many other show stoppers out there, such as the Ibex, blue sheep or even a Tibetan wolf. You will almost certainly see some of the small mammals such as pikas, mountain weasels or the Himalayan marmot.
Sasan Gir national park
This fantastic place cannot possibly fail to Impress, but be warned that this is one of India’s premier national parks and is not cheap to visit. Also, Gir is not conveniently located. In fact, it is a bitch to get to as it is located in the far reaches of western India.
However, the beautiful and wildlife-filled acacia forests make coming here worth every penny. I have no regrets about investing in this incredible place.
What is in Sasan Gir?
Sasan Gir national park is one of a kind, literally! The whole world’s population of Asiatic Lions live in this one park, which is around 700.
As well as the stars of the show that people fly from around the world to see, you can also find 38 species of mammals, including the Indian leopard and Indian wolf. There are also 300 species of birds, 37 species of reptiles and more than 2,000 species of Insects.
Ranthambore national park
Now for the star of the show. Ranthambhore national park is simply dripping in an astonishing array of flora and fauna. David Attenborough did a fantastic documentary for national geographic on this place and I wholeheartedly recommend checking it out when you get the chance.
The surrounding countryside is stunning and a mighty fort crowns the whole park. What more could you possibly want from your wildlife sanctuaries. Due to massive habitat loss before its formation, Ranthambhore is greatly important as it protects significant numbers of endangered species.
The animals of Ranthambhore
The national animal of India is the Bengal tiger and this is one of the best places in the world to see it. While the Royal Bengal Tiger is undoubtedly the star of the show here, the park is home to many more animal species.
While I was there, I personally saw Sloth bears, Hanuman langurs, sambar deers, Indian Mongoose, Nilgai, Chital, Rufous-tailed Hare, Marshmugger crocodiles, desert Monitor lizard and five stripped palm Squirrels.
Ranthambore national park is also home to 273 species of birds. I was lucky enough to see on my safaris the Indian scops owl, plum headed parakeet, Coppersmith Barbet, blue-tailed bee-eater and the Indian roller.
Kanha national park
The lush forests of Madhya Pradesh in central India are home to many of the most iconic Indian animals. There are several famous reserves around the area, such as Panna national park, Satpura national park and Bandhavgarh national park. However, this one is the standout wildlife attraction here.
The countryside looks like it could be right out of Rudyard Kipling’s jungle book. Khana national park has been described as one of the most beautiful natural areas on earth and I would agree.
What animals are in Kanha national park?
It is home to the royal Bengal tiger, which is why most people come. Lord knows there is a truckload of them here, which means no getting out of your jeep! However, you will get the opportunity for many national geographic standard photos.
It is not all tigers, though. Madhya Pradesh is the home to oodles of species and Kanha national park holds more than anywhere else. You will probably be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of some truly spectacular specimens such as the gaur, swamp deer, sloth bears, Indian leopard or dhole. Plus, you could be lucky enough to encounter any of the parks three hundred plus bird species. 😁
Nagarhole national park
Nagarhole national park is part of the Kodagu and Mysore district of Karnataka. This is the standout national park in Southern India. This particular national park is bursting with wild animals. Even the most hardened of naturalists could not fail to be impressed.
Dense forests carpet the whole area. The jungle is crisscrossed by rivers and lakes, most notably the Kabini river.
What animals are in Nagarhole?
Herds of Asian elephants trample through the forests and as tigers mind every paw. It is also a great place to see black panthers and the incredibly rare Indian wild dog in their natural habitat.
Ask your driver to focus on the lakes and water holes to improve your chances of seeing something as the forest is very thick here.
The best places to see Indian animals
India is a vast country, and its topography varies more than any other country I know. Throughout the nations, 3.287 million square kilometres of landmass India seamlessly changes from one incredible landscape into another.
Understandably the distribution of Indian wildlife is very uneven. It is concentrated into pockets and any nature lover should focus their attention on these areas. I will now list my absolute favourites and you can decide what ones appeal to you most.
The Western Ghats
The western ghats are a 62000 sq km mountain range that dominates the landscape of south India. The Indian subcontinent was once attached to Africa, but it broke away and famously began its collision course with Asia due to tectonic movement. As it did, South India went over a geothermic hotspot and caused the hills to rise like blisters in the rocks.
After a vast amount of time and the conditions just right for life, animals have evolved into every conceivable form. Any wildlife enthusiast is sure to be enthralled by exploring this incredible part of the Indian subcontinent for themselves.
Mammals of the Western Ghats
There are at least one hundred and thirty-nine species of mammals to be found in this little corner of heaven, with sixteen being endemic. These include some unusual suspects, such as the giant flying squirrel or the large spotted civet.
If I had to choose just one of the small mammals that I could say is uniquely my favourite in south India, it would have to be the lion-tailed macaque. There is nothing lion-tailed about them, but they have an incredible Mane.
There are, of course, lots of large mammals here, such as the Indian elephant, Indian wild dogs and the Bengal tiger. Whether you see them or not is of course all a game of chance.
Paradise under pressure
Unfortunately, the whole area is situated in a very heavily populated part of the country, and conflicts between humans and the natural world are frequent.
Countless efforts are being made to reach some kind of balance. These efforts come from India’s wildlife institute and many charities such as the WWF. To be honest, it is not looking terrific.
Birds of the Western Ghats
There are a whopping five hundred and eight species of birds to be found here and many are endemic. I have been lucky enough to have seen some very rare birds in the forests here and many are incredibly colourful.
Because of the developed infrastructure of Southern India, you can get far off the beaten track with relative ease.
Animals of the Western Ghats
There are at least 227 species of reptiles to be found in the Western Ghats and 173 species of reptiles. These numbers are astounding and every time you walk around the corner, you will find something new to grab your attention.
If you decide to come here in the monsoon, there will be even more but get ready for some very adverse weather conditions and many places become completely closed off. 🤞
Now the Northeast of India is my absolute favourite place to experience the complexity of wildlife in India. The North eastern states are probably best known as one of the last refuges for the one-horned rhino.
The whole region is considered another one of the top ten most biologically diverse spots on the planet. This is mainly due to the impressive number of landscapes to be found here. These range from the snowy peaks of the Eastern Himalayas to the flood planes of the mighty Brahmaputra river.
Mammals of northeast India
The number of animals to be found here is astounding by anyone’s standards. There are 300 species of mammals, so it is not just about coming to see the Indian Rhinoceros as magnificent as it is.
Ten of them are found nowhere else in the world, such as the pigmy hog or golden macaque. These little beauties can both be found in Manas national park and the latter nowhere else on earth. Another is the Sangai swamp deer that can only be found in Keibul Lamjo national park.
The Northeast of India is one of the best places in the country to see Asian elephants. They may be smaller than their African cousins, but they are still superjumbo. Royal Bengal tigers live in large numbers up here, so your chances of spotting one are good.
Birds of Northeast India
Bird watchers can rejoice as well! There are 836 species of avian beauties to be spotted in Northeast India.
Even if you are not an avid ornithologist, you will be blown away by the sheer diversity. It’s seemingly impossible not to be taken aback by the Rufus hornbill’s beauty or the rugged splendour of the lesser adjutant. That’s right, folks. I am a bit of a twitcher myself and visiting places like this could do that to you in no time.
Animals of Northeast India
There are also 29 species of amphibians, 23 species of lizards, 29 species of snakes, including the Indian cobra and the Indian python. So when you pass a river, try looking among the aquatic plants. You never know when your luck will be in!
Rajasthan and Gujarat
Between these two harsh and arid states, there is an insane amount of wildlife. The Great Thar is the most densely populated desert on earth, but there are still vast tracts of wilderness despite that fact. What’s more, life can thrive against all odds.
It is also one of the best places in the country to spot wildlife due to the complete lack of water. In fact, during the dry season, it is like shooting fish in a barrel. For me, the Thar desert is the most exciting place on the whole Indian subcontinent.
However, the Thar is not all dunes and dust. In truth, sand dunes are remarkably rare. It primarily consists of acacia scrubland that’s punctuated by villages.
Mammals of the Thar desert
Well, where to start? Well, when it comes to big cats, the desert wins hands down! There are significant numbers of both lions and tigers! Yes, you read that right.
However, not in the same national park as they would kill each other to the bitter end. They live opposite ends of the desert, but the stealthy leopard lives among both.
It is a small wonder that national geographic has made so many documentaries in these parts, and yes, there are lions in India. The Asiatic lion is closely related to its African cousins. However, they are a little smaller and their manes are not as big. This is presumably because of the harsh environment.
As well as the ever-popular Bengal tiger or Asiatic lion, You can also find so many more impressive creatures in this part of the world, such as the Indian wild ass, striped hyena, blackbuck, nilgai, the Indian wolf and the adorable white-footed fox.
The Indian wild ass lives exclusively in the Little Rhan of Kutch. These hardy creatures are well worth coming to see if you are heading this way.
Birds of the Thar desert
Despite it not being a suitable climate for humans, let alone animals, you can find a surprising number of bird species here.
Migratory birds flock here during the winter and so do hordes of keen bird watchers. It is baffling why do so many species decide to stop here with the whole of the Indian subcontinent to choose from?
Animals of the Thar
While the Thar desert isn’t exactly bursting at the seams with amphibians, perhaps unsurprisingly, reptiles thrive here. Venomous snakes such as the king cobra are relatively common so watch your step in the dark. Seriously, I have had a couple of very close shaves like that.
I just have to mention that the King cobra is worshipped and revered in this part of the world as Hindus have a great reverence for life.
As I mentioned before, Central India is that classic jungle book landscape. Here you can find an insane amount of life. The bulk of the significant national parks is in Madhya Pradesh.
However, there is a couple of decent parks in Odisha. Although that state is technically in Eastern India, I thought I should cover it anyway.
Mammals of Central India
You can easily find all of the animals from the jungle book here, except the orangutan, of course, since they do not live near the Indian subcontinent.
The big national parks such as Pench national park or Kahna national park are full of tigers. That means there is probably no better place to spot tigers. If spotting the world’s largest land predator is the reason why you came to India, you should probably head here.
Stick to the significant parks as the smaller ones like Satpura national park lacks big cats in any number. However, if you decide to come to Satpura national park, you will be able to enjoy the beautiful scenery without the crowds.
Birds of central India
Birds are in plentiful supply here and any twitcher will be unlikely to leave disappointed. The downside is you will be unlikely to be able to get out of your safari jeep, so there is a huge chance you will miss countless of these avian beauties.
Animals of the central part of India
In the steamy jungles of this part of the world, life can effortlessly thrive with the conditions just right.
In the east of India, you will find Bhitarkanika National Park. This national park is a little different. It is where prehistoric creatures reign supreme. The saltwater crocodile is at the top of the food chain here and they grow to epic sizes.
When I talk about North India I am talking about the far north. That means Ladakh, Uttrakhand and Himachal Pradesh. Of all the places on the Indian subcontinent, the north has the most extensive diversity of landscapes. It ranges from the gently rolling foothills of the Himalayas to the massive snowy peaks of Ladakh.
There are many natural spaces in this part of the world, but Corbett national park is by far the most famous. This is also the most expensive and will be the busiest.
Mammals of North India
Sure, you can find tigers and leopards in the lower elevations here, but this is also one of the very best parts of the world to spot a snow leopard or two when you go up. The snow leopard lives in both Ladakh and Himachal. You will have to work to spot them but nothing worth doing in life is ever easy, right?
Birds of North India
The foothills of the Himalayas are some of the best places in the country to spot birds. As you head higher towards the roof of the world, there become steadily fewer species, but the ones that are left are no less impressive for it.
A good portion of all the birds to be found in India reside in the foothills of this one mountain range. If birds are your thing, you could do much worse than head this way.
Animals of North India
Obviously, there are more species in the lower elevations of the Himalayas, but there are few experiences more exciting than making your way to the top of our world. In all honesty, it is hard to put a collaborative number of species to be found in these three states, but it is fair to presume it would be a whole lot!