When we think safari, we think Africa. But Asia also has a few destinations for wildlife lovers with splendid opportunities to observe endangered or hard to see animals in the wild. And when I talk about a safari, I do not mean spotting wildlife from a feeding platform, but rather the opportunity to jump on an open top jeep and roam around a park in search of animals that roam freely. This may mean that you do not spot any, but it also means that if you do, you will see them in their natural habitat, going about their own business. For original and fabulous safari experiences in Asia look no further and read on.

1. Tigers in Ranthambore National Park, India

"Tiger in Ranthambore"

Tiger in Ranthambore

It was the morning of 2nd January after a less than crazy New Year’s Eve party onboard The Mahajaraja’s Express between Mumbai and Delhi. The air was bitterly cold, with temperatures hovering around freezing, cutting winds and a sun that was struggling to warm us up. We were seated on an open top vehicle at the gates of Ranthambore National Park in India, awaiting to enter the park grounds.

Tigers were the major draw here, but they were as elusive as they were majestic. Seeing them was not guaranteed. In fact, after 3h of numbing cold, I was ready to give up and return to the warmth of our train carriage. But then she appeared. Beautiful, standing tall but slightly limping, with her two calves in tow, in all her elegant glory. I immediately forgot that I could no longer feel my toes or hands under the thick woolen blankets.

"Tiger in Ranthambore"

Tiger in Ranthambore

Ranthambore used to be the hunting grounds of the Maharaja of Jaipur. Located in the Rajasthan region of northeast India, the park has 22 Bengal Tigers that are possible to find in the 400 sq kilometer park area. As tigers are territorial, the size of the population is starting to become an issue to their safety and there might be a need to expand the area to accommodate the new cubs born in the last few years. This is good news for visitors. At least, if your hands go numb and your toes reach frost bite status, it will all be worth it when the sighting of this beautiful animal warms your heart.

2. Leopards in Yala National Park, Sri Lanka

Leopard in Sri Lanka

Leopard in Sri Lanka

Incredibly hard to spot leopards have made Yala National Park their home. Nocturnal by nature and very shy, leopards tend to hide up in the tree branches during the day and come down at night to hunt with their incredible night vision. Spotting them in the foliage in Africa is very hard and, after numerous safaris, I had yet to see one in the wild until my recent trip to the Masai Mara during The Great Migration.

But in Sri Lanka, leopards are relatively easy to find and, on a very early sunrise safari excursion, you may see one or more of them in the park. What makes the leopards in Yala different and even more special than those in Africa is their status as the largest predator on the island and, as a result, their oversized frame means they don’t have to compete with other cats or large predators for food.

And if you do not spot any leopards, Yala is also known for the large herds of elephant and other wildlife species.

3. Rhinos in Chitwan National Park, Nepal

"Rhino in Chitwan" safari in Asia

Rhino in Chitwan

Chitwan National park is not only Nepal’s first national protected area but is also a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a pretty park a few hours drive from Kathmandu and a destination for rhinos and, if you are terribly lucky, tigers or even leopards and sloth-bears.

We spotted a couple of bathing one-horned rhinos cooling down in the mud while on safari in the park. But we did not see a tiger, despite there being 193, many more than in Ranthambore. The tigers in Chitwan are even more elusive and hard to spot than in India. So if you visit, do so for the rhinos or the over 400 types of birds and you won’t be disappointed.

The rhinos in Chitwan amount to over 600 but have suffered from regular waves of poaching for their valuable horns. Seeing them on a trip through the jungle is not difficult. Go on a jeep safari or a walking one and avoid the elephant safaris. I did it before I was aware and had read about what really goes on for a wild elephant to be tamed to carry tourists and have never ridden one again. Ever.

  • Some great suggestions and alternatives to Africa (and for me, not as far to travel) 😉

  • Man I just got back from Sri Lanka, I wish I had known I could safari there! I’ve never done a real one.

  • I love seeing animals in their natural environment. Zoos may be a necessary learning tool, but seeing animals in the wild where they belong is a premium adventure! I would love to take a safari in Asia. Thx for sharing.

  • This is such an interesting read. I love animals and a safari definitely sounds like a not-to-miss activity next time I go to Asia 🙂

  • I completely agree with your opening sentence – when you say Safari, I think Africa. It’s awesome to know that you can have similar safari experiences in Asia – leopards in Sri Lanka would be great and I had no idea there were Rhinos in Nepal!

  • Arzo Travels

    That is true, I also think about Africa first when I hear “safari”. I love to do more safaris though – especially some in Africa (I also did some desert safaris in Dubai but that might not be the same 🙂

  • Cristina P. Carpio

    Asia looks like a great continent for safaris, though most would just think of Africa for such kind of trips. I really love your photos, I would love to enjoy one of these safari experiences.

  • Punita Malhotra

    Top of my list is definitely the tiger. We have been to Bandhavgarh and throughly enjoyed the thrill of chasing the tiger in the dense jungles. I believe they are much easier to spot in Ranthambore National Park. Hardly anyone comes back disappointed.

  • I’d love a chance to visit tigers in the wild after having seen Africa’s Big 5 a few years ago. You are so lucky to have spotted an elusive tiger in Ranthambore!

  • Jennifer @ Made all the Differ

    Sign me up. I would love to do all three of these. They look amazing and I would love a chance to see these in the wild.

  • I’ve not yet had the chance to enjoy a safari, but I did visit a wildlife refuge in Cambodia, where I was able to interact with elephants. I agree with your thoughts on the treatment of elephants in Asia – many of the worst stories come from Thailand. I was happy that my experience took place at a true sanctuary, where no rides were offered or allowed.

    • Thats great to hear! Sadly many tourists don’t always realise when elephants are being mistreated 🙁

  • Safaris are an amazing experience everyone should have if possible! I volunteered in Kenya at a wildlife conservancy and it was one of the best experiences of my life. I loved seeing the animals living wild and free, as they should.

  • Vyjay Rao

    Always love safaris where you get to see wildlife in their natural habitat. Ranthambore is a personal favourite and the majesty of the tigers is to be seen to be believed. What grace they pack along with their awe inspiring appearance.

  • Kevin Wagar

    It’s often Africa that leaps to mind when I think of Safari’s but Asia has so many incredible beasts to see as well. Fantastic photo’s, I’d love to see them all!

  • India has tons of options -Ranthambore, Kanha, Bandipur, Kabini ….list goes on and on. And it is so amazing catching them in wild.

  • Mansi K.

    Enjoyed your post. I find that while being in the wild is life-changing on its own, the property can really drive the experience as well. Both Ranthambore and Chitwan have some incredible properties that I’ve been meaning to try!

  • Sad, I haven’t visited any. You got good experience and pics.
    There are some more in India and I visit the Ranganathittu bird sanctuary near Bangalore often. Looks like you are a wild life lover. 🙂

  • It was great news for me too 😉

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