Most people think of safaris and big five spotting in Africa comes to mind, but there are countless other equally fascinating safari experiences available for nature buffs outside the traditional safari heartland of Africa.
What’s more, some of these less well-known safari destinations can work out far cheaper than that out of reach luxury tent experience in Kruger. Want to see tigers, jaguars, elephants and leopards? You need to check out one of these destinations on your next safari trip, from our list of best safaris outside Africa:
1. Sri Lanka for an alternative “big five”
Sri Lanka has recently been tipped off by wildlife experts as the best safari destination outside of Africa, thanks to its own ‘big five’: Asian elephants, leopards, sloth bears, blue whales, and sperm whales.
The Asian elephant, the largest terrestrial animal on the continent can be spotted in Minneriya National Park during ‘The Gathering’ from August-September – when up to 300 elephants can be seen gathering by the lake bed. (Do you know the differences between African and Asian elephants?)
For leopards, head to Yala National Park – home to the highest density of wild leopards in the world. The open nature of the park’s terrain makes it a prime sport for leopard watching on a jeep tour. The park also boasts a plethora of colourful birdlife, and promises a rare sighting of the sloth bear, which is only found in the Indian Sub-continent.
Few people know of the whale watching opportunities on the South Coast of the island, but there are extraordinary numbers of Blue and Sperm whales congregating off Dondra Head from January to April. Tour operators like Responsible Travel offer itineraries with private chartered boat tours, for your own sea safari.
2. Singapore for a night safari
The “world’s first safari park for nocturnal animals”, Singapore’s Night Safari has 2,500 different species of animals from all over the world, all existing in their naturalistic nighttime habitats. The main aspect of the safari is a guided tram ride through seven different geographical zones and their wildlife, from the Himalayas to creatures of the rainforest – for a more personal, close up experience you can opt to do this tour on your own with a dedicated guide.
One of the huge advantages of the night safari is the range of animals you can see, and the different ways to see them – especially the dedicated nature trails that allow you to walk through the habitats and see the animals up close – park has a leopard, fishing cat and wallaby trail, and two giant aviaries where you can see flying foxes and squirrels more closely.
3. Brazil for jaguars
With its diverse range of natural habitats and huge rainforests, South America is an underrated, but excellent place to see a huge range of wildlife up close. Home to most of South America’s largest mammals, countless bird and reptile species, and the most prized animal sighting in the area – the jaguar, the Pantanal region in Brazil is the world’s largest wetland area, and a great starting point for a South American safari trip.
The expanse of the Pantanal means there is a broad selection of Brazilian animals to spot, from the jaguars, giant otters and macaws in the north, to the pumas and giant anteaters in the south, and there is a good selection of safari options are available, from horseback, to walking and jeep safaris – although safaris by boat are the most popular option (with more chances to see jaguars). It’s also possible to manage a trip on pretty much any budget – from high-end luxury stays to backpacking Brazil in style.
Fancy a trip? The best time of the year to visit is during the drier months of June to October, when the jaguars are easiest to spot on safari, as they congregate around areas of water looking for prey. Not sure how leopards are different from jaguars?
4. India rhino spotting
Whilst Africa’s rhinos are beasts to be extremely wary of, north-east India is home to the relatively approachable one-horned rhino. The expansive flat grasslands of Kaziranga National Park has a population of over 1600 Indian one-horned rhinos, comprising over two-thirds of the world’s total. There are several ranges within the park that offer excellent viewing opportunities for rhinos, as well as elephants, swamp deer, and plenty of birdlife.
The extra twist with rhino-spotting in Kaziranga is the option of an elephant-back ride around the park, which allows you to get within 2 meters of the very relaxed rhinos. Elephant rides start in November when the grass is elephant-high so the ride can feel like sailing mysteriously on a green sea. The grass burns off in December or January improving visibility, and by February new sprouts and cooler temperatures tempt more big game to venture into the open. In especially dry years the park opens for jeep safaris from mid-October.
5. Nepalese jungle safari
The southern belt of Nepal is known as the Terai – a low land covered in dense subtropical forest offering some great jungle safaris. The outstanding safari area in the vicinity is Royal Chitwan National Park, where you can choose from an elephant back safari, canoe safari, walking safari or four-wheel drive safaris to view the local wildlife in their natural habitat. Chitwan is home to the elusive Royal Bengal tiger and leopard, as well as one-horned rhinoceros, a variety of deer, wild boar, wild bison, monkeys, and sloth bear.
Have a great safari experience outside of Africa you’d like to share? Please let us know in the comments below!