Beginner’s Guide to Wildlife Safaris
Here are a few dos and don'ts of going on a wildlife safari in India as a beginner.
If you have been dreaming to explore wildlife and don’t know how to go about it, then travel expert and safari insider- Suyesh Keshari, a wildlife presenter, filmmaker and conservationist shares top tips to make sure that your first safari is memorable and a trip of a lifetime.
- Do your research
Do your research ahead of time and have your goal set for the safari. Whether you wanna focus on the bigger species such as the tiger, lion, elephants or on the smaller species such as birds, reptiles or insects. The Jungles of Central India such as Bandhavgarh, Kanha, and parks such as Kaziranga and Corbett or Kabini provide you with a holistic experience. They are host to a plethora of species of mammals, reptiles and birds.
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Spend at least four to five days in one park, do around 5 to 6 safaris, to get the best out of it. Despite all the research and efforts, wildlife has a chance factor. More the safaris, more the chances of spotting wildlife!
- Planning your stay and bookings
There are plenty of options to stay around National Parks in India these days. However, I would recommend places that are eco-sensitive, eco-friendly and not too loud. There are several lodges that incorporate sustainable practices. Lodges like these refrain from the use of plastics, use locally sourced fruits and vegetables and use renewable energy sources such as solar energy.
When choosing your place of stay make sure it isn’t too far away from the park gates. It should just be secluded enough so that you can keep away from the hustle and bustle of the main town/village the national park is located in. Ideally, the park gates should just take you 20-30 minutes to reach.
Book your tour well in advance as all National Parks in India and the lodges has limited permits and accommodations. Plan your trips to the wild around 2-3 months in advance so that you don’t have to face any last moment adversities.
- Get Familiarised
Once you reach the park, try talking to the guides and naturalists to get familiarised with the park. Every park is different and to get the best out of a park it is key to understand the species distribution, routes and zones, terrain etc. Get updated on recent sightings and probable locations of the animals once you get there so that you know where to look for them!
When in a national park or sanctuary enjoy all flora and fauna and stop chasing after the tiger. People fail to appreciate the beauty of nature, running only after the big cats. Spend time with common subjects such as deer and monkeys. You might think why stop for monkeys when you see so many of them in the cities. The fact is, the monkeys in the forests are in their natural habitat and their behaviour is completely different from their city counterparts. It’s amazing to see them in their natural environment.
So, the next time you are out there in the wilderness, take it all in and enjoy the clean, fresh air, because, for us city dwellers, even that is scarce.
- How to act, when in the forest
When you are out there in the wild, act like animals, not humans. Humans tend to litter, be nasty to their fellow beings, especially animals and they always leave something behind.
Make sure you are not loud inside the park, wear earthy colours such as greens, greys and browns, refrain from strong perfumes/colognes and most importantly pay heed to whatever your guide/naturalist tells you. They are professionally trained and they know best how to be and what to do when in a national park.
So, leave with nothing but memories and leave behind nothing but footprints.
PS: Don’t get off the vehicle in the national parks. It’s a strict no-no.
Conservation is not as tricky as people think it to be. Something as simple as buying a handicraft item from a local store near the park can play a big part in conservation. Your purchase encourages alternate ways of livelihood which in turn reduces the locals’ dependency on forests. This reduces farming inside the park, slash and burns agriculture and even acts of poaching.
Next time when you are at a national park, buy souvenirs from the local shops, tip your guide and naturalists for all the hard work that they do, find out about local conservations initiatives from the forest department and local NGOs. A small appreciation or a donation to the cause goes a long way and positively affects many lives. If you can’t help with monetary resources, just volunteer to clean up areas of the national park and request others to not litter the pristine natural heritage of India. A small effort creates a big difference!
(The author is the founder of India’s first OTT platform that offers virtual safaris, Safari with Suyash TV)
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