10 unforgettable safari experiences for the family
From catching the wildebeest migration in Africa to flying halfway across the world to spot whales.
Masai Mara National Reserve, Narok County, Kenya
Time your trip to the Masai Mara National Reserve with the wildebeest migration. Photo: 123Rf
What’s special: Spotting wildlife is easier in the vast, treeless plains of the Masai Mara than anywhere else in the world. Lounging lions, herds of elephant, phalanxes of wildebeest, skulking hyenas and foraging baboons are what you’ll see on a bad day. And with some luck, you’ll witness a cheetah streaking across the plains, closing in on a Thomson’s gazelle.
Getting there: Fly to Nairobi with Kenya Airways from Mumbai. From there, fly to the Masai Mara with SafariLink.
Where to stay: Governors’ Il Moran, Mara Crossings, Olare Mara Kempinski Masai Mara and Rekero are excellently located.
Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra, India
The Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve is known for frequent tiger sightings. Photo: Shutterstock.com
What’s special: With rich bird life and frequent sightings of tigers, wild dogs, gaur and sloth bear, game drives here make for a deeply satisfying experience. Look out for seasonal flowers such as mahua and wild fruit such as jamun.
Getting there: Fly to Nagpur, then drive 2½ hours to Tadoba.
Where to stay: Irai Safari Retreat, Svasara Jungle Lodge and TigerTrails Jungle Lodge are comfortable stays.
Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan, India
One of the world's top places to spot the big cat. Photo: Shin Yoshino/Minden Pictures/Corbis
What’s special: Ringed by the ancient walls of a hill fort by the same name, Ranthambore is steeped in history. You can photograph peacocks on the fort’s royal ramparts and leopards lurking in the ruins of Rajput chattris. The dainty chinkara can be spotted here, as well as the elusive sloth bear. And yes, tiger sightings are a common occurrence.
Getting there: Take the train to Sawai Madhopur Station in Rajasthan and drive for 30 minutes to the sanctuary.
Where to stay: You’ll have many luxurious options, such as Aman-i-Khas, The Oberoi Vanyavilas or Sher Bagh.
Kaziranga National Park, Assam, India
You know where to go to spot the great one-horned rhino. Photo: 123Rf
What’s special: The vast floodplains of the Brahmaputra River allow for tremendous biodiversity within the park’s shallow swamps, grasslands and mixed deciduous forests. Apart from hog deer, wild buffaloes and tigers, the park is one of the last homes of the great one-horned rhino, accounting for more than 70 percent of its global population. I’ve counted over a dozen of these animals, brought back from the brink of extinction, from the Donga Beel watchtower alone. Elephant-back safaris get you close enough to expect a mock-charge.
Getting there: Fly to Guwahati and then drive for about 3½ hours.
Where to stay: Wild Grass Resort (+91-9954416945) is a comfortable and pleasant abode. And you’ll be served great tea-leaf pakoras.
Madhya Pradesh, India
Head to Bandhavgarh for tiger spotting and great camps. Photo: Theo Allofs/Corbis
What’s special: Central India’s jungles are known for consistently good wildlife viewing and offer plenty of great places to stay. Elephant safaris can take you into dense sal forests and bamboo thickets. Be it Kanha, Pench, Panna or Bandhavgarh, you’ll see everything from gaur, sambar, chital, wild boars and bison to colourful birds and, of course, the majestic tiger.
Getting there: Fly to Nagpur or Jabalpur. From there, drive about 3-5 hours to any of these reserves.
Where to stay: Banjaar Tola in Kanha, Mahua Kothi in Bandhavgarh, Pashan Garh in Panna and Baghvan in Pench (by Taj Safaris) are good options, as is Kanha Earth Lodge.
Yala National Park, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Yala’s thick shrub and woodlands are a habitat to a variety of wildlife. Photo: Peter Barritt/ Robert Harding World Imagery/ Corbis
What’s special: Yala’s thick shrub and woodlands contain the highest leopard density in the world. Other inhabitants of Yala include elephants, jackals, sambar, spotted deer, crocodiles and sloth bears.
Getting there: Fly direct to Colombo with Jet Airways or SriLankan Airlines from most major Indian cities, then drive about 4 hours.
Where to stay: Leopard Trails or Kulu Safaris are great places.
Svalbard Islands, Norway
Spot polar bears amid a divine setting of mountains, sea and glaciers. Photo: 123Rf
What’s special: Use the long hours of daylight in the Arctic summer to cruise around Svalbard or base yourself in Longyearbyen. The raw beauty of the mountains, sea and glaciers makes for a divine setting, in which you can spot gorgeous marine creatures, including whales, seals, Atlantic walruses, as well as seabirds. On land, you can spot reindeer, foxes and polar bears.
Getting there: Fly to Oslo with Lufthansa (stopover in Frankfurt) or Emirates (stopover in Dubai) from most major Indian cities. From there, fly to Longyearbyen with Norwegian.
Where to stay: Basecamp Hotel or the Radisson Blu Polar Hotel Spitsbergen, both in Longyearbyen, are good options.
Periyar Tiger Reserve, Kerala, India
The core area of the reserve lies amid a spectacular backdrop of undulating tea, coffee and cardamom plantations. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
What’s special: A spectacular backdrop of undulating tea, coffee and cardamom plantations surround the core area of the tropical reserve. You’ll see elephants, Nilgiri tahrs, wild dogs, leopards and tigers. A cruise on Periyar Lake is essential, for its beautiful vistas and innumerable sightings of smaller, lovely creatures such as Malabar hornbills and flying squirrels.
Getting there: Fly to Madurai or Kochi, then drive four hours to Periyar.
Where to stay: Periyar House, a lakeside government-run bungalow, and Aranya Nivas are good options.
Okavango Delta, Botswana
What’s special: The floodplains of the Okavango River, which recently made it to the UNESCO World Heritage List, are an inviting habitat for wildlife, including some of the most endangered kind. Elephants, lions, zebras, cheetahs and leopards can be seen here, as well as the sitatunga and sable antelope. Botswana’s high-cost, low-volume tourism policy ensures the area is not overrun by vehicles, and visitors often have the vistas to themselves.
Getting there: Fly to Johannesburg with Jet Airways (stopover in Abu Dhabi) or Emirates (stopover in Dubai) from most major Indian cities. From there, fly with Air Botswana to Maun, then take a scheduled air transfer to your campsite.
Where to stay: Choose between Mombo Camp on Chief’s Island and Vumbura Plains Camp.
Sabi Sands Game Reserve, Kruger, South Africa
Go on a walking safari or night drive to spot leopards, lions, zebras and more. Photo: Image Source/ Corbis
What’s special: This area has been hugely successful in conserving wildlife and harnessing tourism, with initiatives such as walking safaris and night drives. You’ll see an abundance of giraffes, zebras, kudus, elephants, lions, hyenas and leopards.
Getting there: Fly to Johannesburg with Jet Airways (stopover in Abu Dhabi) or Emirates (stopover in Dubai) from most major Indian cities. From there, fly to Kruger/Mpumalanga International Airport with South African Airways, then drive to your destination.
Where to stay: Londolozi, Mala Mala, Singita and Ulusaba are great places to stay. Or book accommodation with Sun International.
This article originally appeared on cntraveler.com.