With the national parks and game sanctuaries of India finally opening up after a long monsoon visitors can once again plan their jungle safaris in some of the world’s most iconic game parks.

Ranthambhore National Park for tiger spotting, Bharatpur (near Agra) for avifaunal adventures, and Jhalana Leopard Reserve (near Jaipur) should definitely be on your bucket list. What’s great is that you can combine these wildlife excursions with lots of exciting things in the urban spaces of Agra and Jaipur, two of the most popular winter destinations in India. What you will also love is that these are all connected by road, so you don’t need to get into the hassle of booking flights. Just hire a car and go!

Ranthambore – Jhalana pic here

But do book ahead for Ranthambhore as the safari times get blocked up really fast. This is when you need all the help from your agent.

You can drive straight down from Delhi to Swai Madhopur, the gateway to Ranthambhore. You can keep the Agra-Bharatpur stretch for later.

Ranthambhore, you may not be aware was a private game reserve of the Jaipur royals for decades. While game hunting was the big deal then, now even the royals can only hunt by the camera. Hunting, as you should know, is now banned in India.

Established by the government of India in 1955 as the Sawai Madhopur Game Sanctuary, the diminishing tiger population in these jungles became a growing concern. This resulted in it being brought under the international Project Tiger in 1973 as one of India’s top Tiger Reserves. In 1990 it was declared a national park, giving more heft to protect its wild denizens.

Birdwatching and fort pic here

It truly is a privilege to be allowed to explore the ancient jungles of Ranthambhore which straddles the junction of the Aravali and Vindhyas ranges. This biodiverse hotspot is home to a fantastic wealth of faunal and botanical splendour. While tiger-spotting is the big lure here on the tourist-designated trails, it’s also a huge draw for birdwatching enthusiasts. Your safaris in one of India’s finest tiger reserves hold the promise of exceptional wilderness experiences that will remain memorable for years to come. The Ranthambhore Fort, which dates to the 10th century, is out of bounds as some tigresses use parts of it as a nursery. The Ganesh Temple here is a living shrine attracting locals to worship the elephant-headed deity as their ancestors always have.

The journey to Agra offers inimitable scenes of local life in the villages you sweep past. The centre of attention of your sojourn in Agra is the fabled Taj Mahal. Visitors never tire of filming it—at sunrise or sunset. Its charms never fade. Drag yourself away from the atmospherics of this old Mughal bastion for a day in the splendid environs of the UNESCO-acclaimed Keoladeo National Park, also known as the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary.

Riksha tour and bird nesting

This fabulous Ramsar Wetland is one of the world’s most important bird nesting and feeding grounds for a wealth of avifaunal species, both domestic and migratory. It represents 64 families, 181 genera, and 227 subspecies of birds. It’s also home to rock pythons, frogs, toads, water snakes, snails, leeches, turtles, and tortoises. Look out for the sunbathing pythons on a rock past the Keoladeo temple. The eco-friendly rickshaw tours, manned by locals who have been trained by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), make the entire trip a wonderful experience. The sanctuary in its early days was a private preserve for bird shoots for the Bharatpur royals. In fact, it was the Maharajah who decided to tap the skills of his engineers to create this amazing artificial lake to pull in the local and migratory avifauna.

Jhalana leopard safari

Having spoilt yourself with many cultural indulgences in Jaipur city you can head off for a day trip leopard-spotting at the Jhalana Leopard Safari Park which is attracting a lot of attention for good sightings. It’s part of the reserve forest which is situated quite close to the airport. This is India’s first leopard reserve.  Spread over 20 sq km it is also home to a wealth of flora and fauna including hyenas, Indian civets, desert cats, jungle cats, desert foxes, jackals, porcupines, and the like. The tourist-designated routes offer good sightings during the two safaris on offer in a day.

In these cooler winter months, you will find many places in India where you can club a wildlife experience with more urban experiences. With a bit of planning, you can even get a customized tour to do it all according to your whims and fancies.

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