BEYOND INDIA'S BIG FIVE
National Geographic Traveller India|March - April 2021
TOO MANY SAFARIS ARE SQUANDERED PINING FOR AN ELUSIVE TIGER, OR A NO-SHOW HERD OF ELEPHANTS. WILDLIFERS TELL YOU ABOUT OTHER SIGHTINGS TO LOOK FOR, FOR AN ELECTRIC DAY IN THE WOODS
SOHINI DAS GUPTA

In my defense, I was young and impatient. All pumped up on what we shall call the ‘Indian holiday hormone,’ I’d made mental notes on how to narrate the story back to my friends in Kolkata, when I spot my first-ever royal Bengal tiger in Bandhavgarh. But said tiger had other plans, and I was left... royally disappointed. So much, in fact, that I have the flimsiest memory of what must have been a beautiful winter morning in the national park in Madhya Pradesh. I don’t remember the huge herd of chital, nor the gorgeous Indian roller that my family fondly recalls.

Looking back, it wasn’t the tiger’s fault, or mine. The real problem was the unsuspecting yet woeful gaze that we hold, collectively, for wildlife. Somehow, we’ve conned ourselves into believing that a safari is successful only if one comes back with a checklist of ‘big’ sightings—leopard in Kabini, elephant in Periyar, one-horned rhino in Kaziranga, and so on. To break the mould, and travel towards a more rounded, organic experience of the wild, we’ve drawn up a list of low-profile stars you can keep an eye out for on these popular Indian safaris. The big guys won’t mind.

HEMIS NATIONAL PARK, LADAKH

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