Busting India Wildlife Tourism Myths

Collarwali with Cubs at Pench

Wildlife Tourism has been around for over 20 years and it is growing in popularity with travellers. There are several myths prevailing about wildlife tourism. Let me discuss about a few common ones:

Closer to the park the lodge is better is the park experience

Lodges are generally situated in clusters in outskirt areas of park where private land is available. Typically these could be right outside the park gate or somewhere in 15 minute driving radius from the gate. Safaris are provided from the lodge where you stay, so there is no inconvenience of having to come to park gate for every safari (valid for most parks). Gate is just the entry point into the park but the park boundaries are spread all over. The lodges are situated in what is known as “Buffer” area of the forest i.e. where there will still be some nocturnal wildlife movement (typically Leopards). So it does not matter how close or far away you are from the gate but what really matters is that how spreadout and how secluded is the lodge. The lodge is not just a base point to explore the park and it may have some experiences, bird walks, nature walks etc of its own. So choice of a lodge based on these is more important as long as it is not situated too far away from the park gate.

A Typical Jungle Lodge

Staying Inside the park boundaries is better

This is the truth and not a myth. However the trouble really is that most parks don’t have anything inside the park and those who do have, No. of rooms are limited and the accommodations are very simple. There are restrictions in terms of mobility after dark and therefore only recommended for avid wildlife travellers only and not for those who wish to combine leisure with wildlife.

Dhikala FRH – Corbett National Park – Uttarakhand (North India)

Wildlife sighting is better in a particular season

There is much debate over which season is better for sighting especially the big cats i.e. Lion or Tiger. The fact is that big cats have to come out for a kill once every two or three days. Most sightings happen when the big cats are moving around in their territory looking for a kill. Winters are when these big cats move more often looking to get some sun. As summers progress, waterholes dry up and wildlife remains concentrated around the few that remain and so big cats hover around these waterholes more. Both factors even out for most times of the year (when the park is open). The guides / naturalists adapt their routings based on previous game drive sighting data and these factors and ensure that big cat sightings remain the same all through the year (except few days in Winter when some parks really get cold and foggy).

Asiatic Lion in Sasan Gir National Park – Gujarat (Western India)

More the number of ranges you cover better the chances of a big cat sighting

A Big cat marks out territories in which they operate exclusively. A range has several big cat territories. Actually it may sound a little boring but for best chance of a sighting, its best to focus on a range where the big cat is active and keep going round and around for a better chance of sighting. However if idea is to explore and experience the park then it may be a good idea to cover different ranges, as each have its own diversity and character.

Our Best sightings were at Mukki Range of Kanha National Park – Madhya Pradesh (Central India)

You travel for sighting Big Cats

Totally wrong. Big cats are well advertised. However they are elusive. You could be doing 12 hours of safaris (Three hours X Four safaris) and not even see a big cat. While big cats remain the prized sight, there are other mammals, exotic birds and wide ranging other interesting aspects of a park that are as interesting. Big cat focus can be very disappointing on days when you do not sight them, however if you interests are varied then every park safari will have its own memories to take back.

Leopard at Bandipur National Park – Karnataka (South India)

There are no big cat sightings in buffer areas

Tadoba, Satpura and many other parks have had Tiger population grow out to nearby buffer areas.  Sasan Gir also it is common for Lions to get into nearby villages. The only reason why these big cat Territories are not marked as core area is because there are still villages staying in there and forest department has not notified that as a core area. So do not worry if you do not get a core area permit, you can always check for a buffer area with active big cat population.

Amazing Views from Buffer area Safari in Satpura National Park – Madhya Pradesh (Central India)

You have good sightings during Night Safaris

Some parks (e.g. Pench, Tadoba and Satpura) have started to offer night safaris (Between 5 PM to 10 PM). These are typically offered in buffer areas. The sighting during the safari is not great due to poor lighting. However the main idea for opting for one is a thrill of being in the forest after dark. You may sight nocturnal birds such as nightjar or owl and some common mammal species like Wild Boar and Spotted Deer. You have to be very lucky to sight a Sloth Bear or a big cat.

Night Safari in Satpura National Park – Madhya Pradesh (Central India)

Expensively priced Jungle lodges are luxurious

There are several jungle lodges that offer experiential luxury and exclusivity. So these may appear simple accommodation wise but are high on exclusivity in company of an owner who is typically an avid wildlife traveller. There are some others who have experiential character and are stylishly made with a rustic character. So it is best that travellers do not assume an element of luxury looking at the price tag.

Kings Lodge at Bandhavgarh – Madhya Pradesh (Central India)

Wildlife is more of adult activity boring and tiring for Kids

Modern schools are very active in terms of how kids look at nature. A 2nd grader today is lot more aware and interested in nature, animals, birds and eco-tourism than ever before. Its sounds tough sometimes to have a 2nd grader get up at 5:30 AM for 6 AM safari, however with a little orientation and preparation, they would enjoy the experience more than adults do.

Our first Wildlife Holiday at Pench (2009) – My Son evolved from here to become avid Bird Watcher.

Wildlife is tough and tiring for senior citizens

Wrong. A three hour leisurely jeep ride in the jungles is not very tough. Majority of Overseas (Inbound) guests into India are 50+ segment and they do sometimes 10-12 safaris a trip. There is always comfort of a swimming pool or a Spa to go back to after the safari (applicable with premium jungle lodges)

Some Park are better than others 

Some are larger, have better variety of wildlife, better variety in terms of terrains, more greenery etc. etc. However to call anyone better over other wouldn’t be correct. All parks have their own character and beauty. A true wildlife travellers does not really compare two parks but enjoys everyone for its own beauty and character. However within a park, there may be ranges that are more suited to wildlife and some others that are more suited to bird watching. e.g. Bijrani in Corbett is more suited for Tiger sighting whereas Durgadevi is more bird watcher centric.

Inside Durgadevi Range – Corbett National Park – Uttarakhand (North India)

Why go to a Wildlife destination for a getaway

Getaways are supposed to be relaxing whereas Wildlife holiday is where you need to wake up early morning for a safari. Does that sound contradictory ? May be it does but it isn’t. Being in nature exploring forest areas can be most relaxing experience. At a wildlife destination you are away from tourists. Some of them even do not have cellphone coverage thus offering digital detox. These “switch off” days spent in laps of nature can be most refreshing. Wildlife destinations that easily accessible such as Pench, Tadoba, Ranthambhore, Corbett, Kaziranga, Kabini, Bandipur, are all popular getaways having many getaway resort style stays around the park.

Corbett (Uttarakhand) is a popular riverside getaway in North India besides being a Wildlife destination

Wildlife Travel is about sighting Tigers

There is more to wildlife than Tigers. Bera / Jawai Bandh has Leopards. A good leopard sighting is very rare and as thrilling as a Tiger sighting. Kaziranga has one horned Rhinos (only place in the world that has that). Sasan Gir is the only abode of Asiatic Lions. Kanha has Barasinghas (a rare Antelope specie). Wild Dogs (Dholes) and Sloth Bear are also rarely sighted (less frequently than even a Tiger). Sight of a wild Elephant in front of you is thrilling and equally scary (as you’d feel if it was a Tiger). If you are adventurous type you may explore Himalayas for Snow Leopards or Red Pandas. So to maximise wildlife experience it is best to not limit your imagination to sighting Tigers.

Kaziranga is renowned for its One horned Rhinos

One Wildlife Trip is enough

Travelling to Wildlife destinations is not like travelling to theme parks. Once you visit Universal Studio or Disneyworld or Legoland you may not really want to visit another one. However for Wildlife Travellers it is more like a pilgrimage that they seek solace and solitude in visiting every now and then. For avid wildlife and bird Photographers there is always that incentive of getting a better photograph and sighting a new species. First Wildlife Holiday may be the last for many (I have seen the Tiger, so why go looking for again), however for most others it is beginning of many such holidays to come.

More you explore Parks, better are chances for amazing sightings.

Where there is Tiger there are sightings

There are many parks in India where there are Tigers but sightings are rare. This is because tracking is difficult (e.g. Kaziranga) due to their topography and/or poor park infrastructure (Safaris, Guides, Safari tracks etc.). Many State Tourism authorities and hotels have been guilty of misleading communication (e.g. and Sundarbans) trying to cash into “Tiger Tourism”. Therefore it is important to understand There are Tigers in a park that does not mean they get sighted regularly.

Nagzira (Maharashtra – Centra India) is where we had our best Dhole (Wild Dog) sightings

We have been planning Wildlife Holidays for travellers all over India and across the world for over 18 years. Do write to us on ask@nivalink.co.in and we will be happy to give our insights / inputs and help you plan a Wildlife Holiday.

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