The ghost-like Snow Leopard silently stalks the frozen Himalayan meadows. The glorious Royal Bengal Tiger is the undisputed king of the mangrove swamps. The great Indian One-horned rhino quietly observes you from amidst tall elephant grass – debating whether to charge or stay! Avian visitors from frosty Siberia, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, and China fly to lakes and watering holes each winter. The majestic Asiatic Lion roams free in the wild in its last natural habitat on earth. The magnificent Asiatic Elephant descends with its herd to drink and bathe in the river. The Gangetic Dolphin and the Olive Ridley turtle are icons of India’s aquatic conservation. Stunning underwater coral forests are home to painted rainbows of fish, clams, crabs, crocodiles, and turtles. Packs of dhole (Indian Wild Dog) hunt fiercely through the forests, blissfully unaware of their ‘highly endangered predator’ status. The swamp deer, black buck, Indian bison, and nilgai flit away from man and tiger. The long-armed Hoolock gibbon charms with its crazy antics and delightful call. The beautiful Nilgiri tahr makes a rare, solitary appearance on a high clifftop.
The Indian sub-continent’s astounding bio-diversity lies in its ecological legacy – a mind-boggling variety of waterscapes and landscapes that are beautifully supported by great climatic diversity across the length and breadth of the country, allowing you to enjoy the perfect blend of terrain and weather in the great outdoors.
India’s natural heritage encompasses a stunning array of thousands of species of mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, and flowering plants. And how could we forget India’s deep seas? The tropical waters of the Indian mainland and island archipelago harbour a stunning and bewildering diversity of marine life forms.
No wonder then that India is one of 17 countries in the world marked for its complex diversity of flora and fauna. Along with over 515 wildlife sanctuaries, and multiple National Parks (both land and marine), India also hosts 18 biosphere reserves, 10 of which are part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves; 26 wetlands are registered under the Ramsar Convention.
Eight of the sub-continent’s oldest stands of flora and fauna are on the UNESCO World Natural Heritage List – the Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area, Kaziranga National Park, Keoladeo National Park, Manas Wildlife Sanctuary, Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks, Sundarbans National Park, Western Ghats, and Khangchendzonga National Park (Mixed).
The former hunting reserves of maharajas, India’s splendid wildlife parks offer fantastic safaris that are anything but tame. Your toughest decision will be deciding where to go, given the country’s vastness and contrasting landscapes. A good way to choose is to plan your itinerary around what you want to see.
For adventure travellers, the Himalayas offer outstanding activities such as trekking, White Water rafting, biking, overland trips, village walks, mountaineering, rappelling etc. The Western Ghats are wonderful for cycling, hill and rainforest hikes, short treks, and coffee and spice plantation walks. The Lakshadweep Islands and Andaman Islands are prime sites for scuba diving, snorkelling, undersea walking, parasailing, boat rides, jet skiing, angling, glass bottom boating, sea plane rides etc. India has excellent jungle lodges, adventure campsites, and wildlife resorts – several on par with the best in the world – that are ideal for international travellers.