One of the best ways to take to the off-beaten track for a holiday is through a wildlife safari, be it an incredible African safari or any other across the globe. Hauntingly serene, most of the national parks have dramatic landscapes, from the endless plains of Masai Mara in Africa to the jungles of Ranthambore National Park in India. Teeming with wildlife and colorful birds, these are a haven for any wildlife enthusiast. Here’s a list of the best national parks you really must visit for an enriching wildlife experience.
1. Masai Mara, Kenya
Located in Narok County of Kenya, Masai Mara offers the quintessential safari in Africa with expansive, open plains and the wild roaming freely in their natural habitat. From giraffes gliding gracefully across the landscape to millions of wildebeest crossing the Mara River, a massive herd of elephants grazing on the grasslands and the big majestic cats roaming freely – Masai Mara is a haven for any wildlife enthusiast. Most visitors come to see the Great Migration here as the reserve lies on the equator when over 1.5 million wildebeest pass through from Masai Mara to Serengeti in search of fresh grazing ground.
The best time to visit Masai Mara is between July and October, as these are dryer months. The grazing ground is the least dense, so you can easily spot animals gathering at waterholes.
2. Kruger National Park, South Africa
Kruger National Park is South Africa’s oldest and second-largest national park. It is located in the northeast of the country in the South African provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga, offering unrivaled diversity of life forms and numerous historical and archaeological sights. Spread over about 20,000 square kilometers, Kruger National Park is beautifully dramatic with magnificent granite hills in the south, the Lebombo Mountains in the east and the tropical forest in the north. In this vast expanse thrive over 500 species of birds, innumerable mammals including the African big five – lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and buffaloes. Besides this, there are many heritage sites within the park borders to explore.
Kruger has a subtropical climate with most of the rainfall in summer. The best time of the year to see maximum game is during the winter months – June, July and August. Most of the trees and shrubs lose their leaves at this time of the year and most waterholes are dry, making sighting easy. It is also a great time for birdwatching.
3. Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana
Okavango Delta is a massive and virtually untouched freshwater wetland in the middle of Botswana with an abundance of wildlife in spectacular settings. A maze of sparkling lagoons, overgrown islands and meandering channels form the backdrop of this jewel, set in the heart of the Kalahari Desert. At the fringes of the delta lies Moremi Game Reserve, home to the most ancient species on earth – the wily Nile crocodiles. Other commonly found species are elephants, water buffalo, lazy hippos, rambunctious packs of the hyena and wild dogs. Bird enthusiasts can have a feast too, with over 400 species of birds found in this small region.
The best time to visit this paradise is in the winter months between June and October. However, if you want to see animals congregated near watering holes, then the summer months are ideal. So enjoy yourself at this unique game reserve where both the prey and predator navigate marshy waterways.
4. Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda
Experience an altogether unique encounter in the wild in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. You might face a gorilla family as nearly half of the world’s population of the endangered mountain gorilla live here. Navigate through the rainforest on an adventure hike through secret pathways to find the curious golden monkeys, spotted hyenas, bushbucks, elephants, and Duiker buffaloes. For bird lovers, Volcanoes National Park is a paradise too, with thousands of native birds chirping around everywhere. For adventure seekers, there are five volcanic peaks within the park, with many options to trek.
The best time to visit the park for gorilla trekking is between July and October. If you want to trek and hike in the forest, avoid the rainy season between March and May.
5. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Boasting of the highest concentration of wildlife in the world, Serengeti National Park in Tanzania is undoubtedly one of the best wildlife parks in Africa. It is aptly named ‘the Serengeti,’ which means endless plains, as it is spread across 12,000 square miles of golden grasslands dotted by an occasional rocky spot.
From good sightings of both mammals and birds to expansive landscapes, excellent accommodation and various kinds of safaris, Serengeti is a paradise for wildlife lovers. It is most famous for an annual spectacle when about 1.5 million wildebeest and hundreds of zebras trek the plains with predators in tow.
Serengeti remains warm and dry for most of the year. The best time to visit depends on the part you are traveling to – north, west, south or the center. If you want to see the Great Migration, when the animals cross the crocodile-infested Mara River, you should plan a trip between July and September.
6. South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
Experience a walking safari at South Luangwa National Park in Zambia and get up and close with the wildlife. The park boasts of large herds of antelope and elephant as well large lion prides. Even river-dwelling species like crocodiles and hippos thrive in this haven along with more than 400 species of birds. South Luangwa is also the best place to see wild leopards in Africa. The best time for game-viewing is in the dry months between July and October.
7. Ranthambore Park, India
Safaris are synonymous with Africa, but India has something different to offer. Rather than the Big 5, here, the main hero is the tiger. Spanning over 1,300 square kilometers, Ranthambore is one of India’s biggest and most renowned national parks. It is located in Rajasthan and is famous for the majestic predator – the tiger. With a mix of rolling hills, meadows, lakes and rivulets, this forest system is home to a huge variety of flora and fauna. You can easily spot sloth bear, jackal, fox, the blue antelope, langur, and if you are lucky, the elusive leopard.
The best time to visit Ranthambore is between October and June, when there are no rains.
8. Yala National Park, Srilanka
The best place to visit for all those interested and intrigued by the leopard is Yala National Park. Located on the south coast of Srilanka, Yala is an undiscovered wildlife reserve, making it all the more special. Spread over 1250 square kilometers of light forest, grassy plains, and brackish lagoons, it’s abundant with wildlife. You can encounter elephants, crocodiles, buffaloes and many varieties of monkeys here.
The best time to visit this Park is in February as the weather is pleasant with less rain and hence more opportunities to spot incredible wildlife.
Get rejuvenated and invigorated through nature, where diversity of wildlife blends beautifully. However, don’t forget to buy the best binoculars you can to make the experience all the more unforgettable.