The Indian subcontinent harbors some of the most exotic animals on earth and offers an array of unparalleled wildlife safari experiences covering a diverse range of bird and animal life.
While India is home to a wide range of flora and fauna, its nearest neighbors also host some majestic animals, like large elephant herds plodding the forests of Sri Lanka and the one horned rhinoceros dominating the plains of the terai in Nepal.
Our focus here is to highlight to the visitors heading to the national parks of India about some of these excellent wildlife destinations which can be covered by a trip to Sri Lanka or to Nepal as an easy extension to an Indian safari. You can book these amazing getaways with trusted sites like TransIndus.
Sri Lanka wildlife destinations
There are 26 National Parks in Sri Lanka but because of the diverse terrain and flora and fauna each one of them offers a different wildlife experience.The island has it all, so long as you know where to find what you want, whether it is leopards in their habitat or a flock of fruit bats in the middle of a city.
Additionally, Sri Lanka is a fantastic year round safari destination as the country has two monsoon seasons which impact first, the east side of the country and then the west, meaning there are always dry areas for a safari no matter when you decide to visit. December to August is best for the Southern parks, while May to August is typically best for the Northern parks.
Yala National Park
One of the most well-known parks not only in the subcontinent but all over the world, Yala National Park is said to hold the highest density of leopards than in any other park on the planet.
In Yala, the chances of coming upon this elusive cat are pretty good, as the animals have become more or less accustomed to seeing vehicles and humans. The sightings at Yala are therefore relaxed and long-lasting as compared to other parks elsewhere.
Yala is located at the southeast tip of Sri Lanka and is best visited as the last leg of a safari trip in combination with a south coast whale watching beach stay.
Kumana National Park
This park is located on the southeast coast of Sri Lanka, hardly 20km away from the surfing hotspot of Arugam Bay.The forests are dense here and the terrain is Rocky, so spotting wildlife is a bit difficult.
Leopard sightings here are a bit tricky as the animals are more shy, but once they are spotted against the backdrop of the rocky outcrops, the scene is doubly rewarding.
On the other hand, Kumana National Park is easily the most stunning of all parks where visitors will come across ancient overgrown jungle temples that add to the wildlife experience.
Wilpattu National Park
One of the oldest protected areas in the country, Wilpattu is the largest National Park in Sri Lanka.The park is also a good place to spot leopards, especially during the mating season from January to April.
Udawalawe National Park
With fantastic viewings all round the year, Udawalawe National Park is known for its large Asian elephant population. In fact, it is considered to be unlucky if you do not come across a wild elephant within five minutes of beginning your safari.
There is an exceptional elephant orphanage, run by the Born Free foundation which has been providing care and shelter to orphaned elephants up to five years of age.
Nepal wildlife destinations
Beyond the incredible views of the Himalayas and the magnificent temples dotting the landscape, Nepal is blessed with a chain of wildlife reserves and national parks which are home to some incredible animal species, not to be found elsewhere. It’s a great addition after a few wildlife safaris in India.
Chitwan National Park
Chitwan National Park was the first protected area created in Nepal, especially for the protection of the highly endangered one-horned rhinoceros and enjoys three decades of successful conservation.
Apart from the rhino, Chitwan offers its visitors an opportunity to see a wide range of endemic flora and fauna and is a listed UNESCO World Heritage site. The terai area is home to one of the largest growing grass species.
The Fauna of Chitwan National Park consists of more than 700 species of arthropods, 19 different kinds of reptiles, 68 numbers of mammals and over 543 species of birds, including many on the threatened list, which have found a safe haven in the park.
Bardia National Park
One of the most visited and easily accessible parks in Nepal, the Bardia National Park is located on the banks of the River Karnali in south west Nepal near the city of Nepalgunj, a two hour drive away.
The major portion of the forest here is of the Sal tree species and is the natural home to the royal Bengal tiger, apart from the one-horned rhinoceros.The waters of the river are home to the elusive and extremely vulnerable gangetic dolphin and many instances of spotting these blind creatures jumping in and out of the water have been reported in the park.
March to May are quite hot in these parts but it is the best time to visit Bardia for the best big cat and rhino sightings as they are normally found cooling off by the banks of the river. Karnali and other water bodies which criss-cross the park.
Shey Phoksundo National Park
Established in 1984, the Shey Phoksundo National Park is only the one of its kind located in the trans-himalayan region in the Dolpo district of Nepal. Apart from the wildlife and the stunning scenery, the major feature of the park is the Phoksundo Lake at an altitude of 11,850′ which incidentally gave the park its name.
The area contains turquoise blue glaciers and the 150m waterfall, the highest in Nepal. Besides watching wildlife, visitors can trek to the Shey Monastery or enjoy views of the national park from above by renting a helicopter from the local tour operators.
While trekking, keep a sharp lookout for blue sheep and musk deer. This is also the abode of the snow leopard, Himalayan Tahr and Himalayan Black Bear. From the 29 species of butterflies found here, the paralasa nepalica is one of the world’s highest flying butterflies which can be seen in these parts.
If you are in Nepal for exposure to the animal kingdom, be sure to tick off as many of these species on your visit:
- One-horned rhinoceros
- Royal Bengal Tiger
- Clouded leopard
- Snow leopard
- Asian elephant
- Red Panda
- Himalayan Tahr
- Blue sheep
- Himalayan jumping spider
- Himalayan Monal- Nepal’s national bird.
Don’t forget to carry your camera and to try your hand at wildlife photography. Check out my best tips here.