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India is a land of culture, but it’s also the land of amazing safari tours! Whether it’s your first time to do an Indian safari, or you’re just looking to make your next experience better (because let’s face it, when is just one safari enough?), here are some handy tips to make your tour a blast.
Indian Safari Packing List
1. Pack appropriate Safari clothing
Simply packing your favorite outfit won’t do. As in many parts of Asia, Indian weather can change drastically from the humid heat of summer to the chilling frost of winter. You won’t want to go on a wintertime morning safari without a warm coat.
Also, you wouldn’t want to trek through the jungles in summer without appropriate clothing. So do your research on the weather and dress appropriately. Little things like a blanket, a scarf, a hat, or a fan could go a long way, too.
The best solution is to dress in layers as the temperature can go from freezing to hot within a few hours.
2. Bring some shade
The Indian sun makes the safari look all the more vibrant, but it can be merciless on your skin! Bring some shade along with you, preferably a hat and some sunscreen. You will most likely be sitting in an open jeep, so it helps to have something to fight the sun’s rays with.
3. Bright colors are a no-no!
I learned it the hard way — wearing bright colors is a big no-no for safaris. I wasn’t able to use the coat I brought because of this! Nature isn’t used to bright colors, and it tends to agitate animals when they see these.
Choose clothes in dull colors like mute shades of green, brown, or black. Don’t go for bright reds, yellows, oranges, and pinks unless you want to be seen as a moving target for the animals you’re following!
4. Bring something for the dust and grime
Being in an open jeep will expose you to a lot of dust, and if you’re there on a rainy morning then the tires could also kick up some mud. Even if you’re in a bus, you’re still exposed through the windows. It’s best to bring a hanky, some hand sanitizers or some wet wipes. It’s also important since the safaris often end with a meal back at camp.
Don’t wear clothes that you absolutely wouldn’t want to get stained, too. If you’re bringing a good camera with you (as you’re well-advised to), bring something to protect it from the elements.
5. Bring water
This is very important, as even when you’re not on a safari tour you’re still in danger of being dehydrated, especially if you’re not accustomed to the heat that comes with the humidity. During the trips themselves, you will be exposed to the sun for hours so make sure you have enough to drink.
6. Bring some cash
While most safari companies will provide you with a breakfast/snack, chai, and water, you might also stop to where you have the opportunity to by some souvenirs and snacks. You also need a little cash to tip your local guide/national park guide at the end of the safari (2-300 RS per person is appropriate).
7. Your passport
Do NOT forget your passport! Most National Parks require your passport to verify your reservation and if you forget yours, you won’t be allowed into the park. This is more important than your camera!
8. Your camera
Yes, I know your cell phone has a camera, but if you want some great shots of the wildlife, you need to bring a good camera and lenses.
What to See on an Indian Safari
Leopards and Tigers
Each Indian safari destination has a different main attraction. Most people who take these tours come for the true king of jungle animals, the tiger.
Seeing these magnificent creatures in person, in their natural habitat, is an experience that could never be replicated by zoos or even the best documentaries! But the tiger is extremely elusive, and not all safari guides can find them all the time.
In their lieu, there are other wonderful creatures to see if you keep your eyes peeled. The leopard, the ghost of the jungle, can even be more elusive than the tiger and maybe even more elegant than his bigger cousin.
There are also rare species of deers, such as the very common spotted deer and the rare Barasingha, and the large Sambar deer.
Always entertaining are the langurs, macaques, and various species of monkeys as they jump from tree to tree.
There are also wild boars, huge Gaur (the Indian bison), jackals, and wild dogs (which can be seen even outside safari tours). Depending on the region, where you do your Safari in India, you might also spot elephants or rhinoceros.
India is home to a wide variety of birds and the naturalists going with you on safari will help you spot them, as they are quite elusive for the untrained eye.
There are over 1260 bird species to be found, many of the endemic to the Indian subcontinent. Many of those birds are part of the Paradise bird family and are absolutely stunning, but quite rare. More common is the national bird of India – the peacock.
That’s not even counting the magnificent flora of the subcontinent. Safari rides are done with trained naturalists, and they’re very keen to point out the names of every tall tree or bright flower that you see.
Indian Safari Tips
The safari is a luxury trip on its own. Sans the posh trimmings, though, you are given what the very best of unadulterated nature has to offer! Here are some tips to making the safari even more of a blast.
1. Stay quiet
It’s a pain to see that some guides and naturalists speak so loud during these safari tours, when their ears are their greatest assets when finding the elusive jungle animals. Animals typically have distinct alarm calls, and when the guides hear this they can be used to locate the direction of the big cats.
During our safari, we were taught to be as quiet as possible especially during the times we were waiting for the tigers and leopards to show themselves.
2. Stay curious
Many safari tourists have eyes just for the big cats and go home disappointed when they don’t show themselves. This causes them to miss the real magic of the trip! Keep an open mind and observe your environment.
Your naturalist guide will be heralding you with mesmerizing nature stories, and on the safari jeeps or canter buses, you can see these stories unfolding in a panorama right before your eyes.
3. Stay put
Your guides will be giving you important rules and reminders from the moment you set foot in the lodges. These are not just meant to facilitate the smooth operation of the camps but are also meant for your safety.
Out there, there are no leashes or fences. You are in the animals’ territory. That’s what gives everything such a raw and exhilarating feel! While these safaris are perfectly safe, it can’t hurt to watch your own back by following the jungle rules.
4. Get up early
Frequent travelers know that being early is a virtue, and it’s a supreme one for safari trips! Book early, since the number of vehicles is limited. Wake up early because entering the jungle as early as possible gives you the best chances of getting good sightings.
5. Use a Safari Company that works sustainably
Pick a safari company that puts the animal first. Read reviews on how ethical they are. If you read that tourists were disappointed, because the guides “wouldn’t get closer” or similar things, take that as a good sign. I have been invited by a few safaris in Madhya Pradesh with Pugdundee Safaris, and for them, sustainability is much more important than a quick buck. Also, take a look at how gorgeous their luxury safari lodges are.
These are pretty simple tips, but trust me, they can take your Indian safari experience to the next level! But the most important tip, of course, is to enjoy and savor every moment you spend in the jungles of the Indian subcontinent.
Text and Photos for Tips for Indian Safari ©Photos Karla Ramos 2018