One of the most gorgeous sights of nature is seeing the big cats in the wild. We Indians are so lucky as we live in a country that is blessed with rich biodiversity. It is home to the five most gorgeous wild cats of the world.
Every traveler wants to see a tiger or a lion in the wild. It is truly one of a kind experience. We feel thrilled, scared, happy and excited all at the same time. Our hearts beat and hands shake as we try to focus our camera.
Every year, thousands of tourists come to India to catch a glimpse of these beautiful wild big cats of India. Let us see how many you have seen firsthand.
The Indian leopard or commonly the leopard is a stunningly beautiful creature. It is probably the easiest big cat to spot in the wild in India. Leopards are found throughout the Indian jungles. We can commonly see them resting on the branches of a tree.
If you are a beginner traveler, start your checklist with sighting the leopard. Most wildlife sanctuaries in India have a healthy population of leopards.
It is however different from the cheetah or the panther, so do not mix these up. The cheetah has a very slender body and smaller dots on the body and now only found in Africa and Iran. At one time cheetahs were found in India too but were wiped out due to hunting.
- See leopards resting on trees in Bura Chapori
- Come to charming Chakrashila – the home of golden langur and leopards
The king of big cats and the king of the jungle. No arguments there.
The lion which we see in India is called the Asiatic or Indian lion. The other species of lion is found in Africa called the African lion. The Asiatic lion is found in the wild only in the Gir forest.
If you have a bucket list, then put this up. There is something phenomenal about seeing a lion in the wild.
The lion is everything that is free and wild yet disciplined. When you see a lion in its natural surroundings, we in fact become thoughtless. We forget everything momentarily and we feel the raw power that a lion emits. It actually changes us. It actually makes us want to respect nature.
#3 Clouded leopard
It is once in a lifetime that we travellers get to see a clouded leopard. Only a few are lucky enough.
A clouded leopard may look different from its lion cousins, but it is extremely beautiful. Also, its fur is amazingly different from other animals. Its large beautiful eyes may entice you to come closer, but do not forget that it has the blood of wild cats. It is a master hunter with superb stealth and camouflage.
This endangered species lives in the Himalayan ranges. In India you can find these in northern Bengal and Sikkim and in the seven north-eastern states.
#4 Snow leopard
Another beautiful cousin of the lion- the snow leopard. This solitary hunter is a master of camouflage. Snow leopard is found only in the high mountains or cold regions of Asia.
In India, you can find sanctuaries in Uttarakhand, Himachal, Arunachal, Jammu and Sikkim where the snow leopard lives.
If you want to spot a snow leopard, you must have a lot of patience. After all, you will be seeing a very rare and special creature. Do you remember the film Vertical Limit, where the protagonist was shown photographing a pair of snow leopards high in the snowy Himalayas?
Not many are lucky enough to see this beautiful white leopard in the wild. If you get to see one, surely let us know.
#5 The Royal Bengal Tiger
If you have not seen a tiger in the wild, then you have some unfinished business in this life. It is the most gorgeous and noble among the big cats and in nature.
Especially relevant, India is the tiger’s country. Fortunately, tigers are easy to spot in many of the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in India.
The Sunderbans has one of the highest population of the RBT but it is extremely tricky to spot one. Furthermore, the ones there can swim and fish, unlike other big cats.
Although most of us have seen tigers in the zoos, it is merely a consolation.
The real deal is to see the creature in the forests, in its true home. Wild and free. And truly majestic.
Image credit: 7-themes.com, nationalzoo.si.edu
- Want the thrill of a walking through a dense forest full of wild cats? Go to Kuldiha
- Experience the dreamy land of the Buxa tigers