The Great Cat Safari

A once in a lifetime opportunity – the chance to see all four of the great cats of India. On this incredible journey you travel from the scrub forests of Gujarat to the great Thar Desert and the cold desert of Ladakh in the Himalayas in search of Tigers, Lions, Leopards and the Snow Leopards. The Great Cat Classic Safari covers three states of India and allows for the best photographic opportunities for each of the four Great Cats over a period of a month.

Best Time: October to March 

Outline Summary:

Day 01-04: Tigers in Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan
Day 05-09: Leopards at Bera, Rajasthan
Day 10-12: Little Rann of Kutch, Gujarat
Day 13-14: Velavadar National Park, Gujarat
Day 15-17: Gir Forest National Park for Lions
Day 18-19: Delhi
Day 20-29: Ladakh for Snow Leopards
Day 30: Ladakh – Delhi

The Safari

The Safari begins in Delhi, the capital of India. Delhi is a sprawling metropolis and offers a captivating mix of modern and ancient cultures. From Delhi we travel to the small town of Sawai Madhopur, the gateway to the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve. Ranthombore, the hunting grounds of the Maharajah of Jaipur, lies at the junction of the Aravalli and Vindhya mountain ranges and offers a magnificent backdrop of archaeological monuments for wildlife viewing. One of the premier tiger reserves in the country, Ranthambore is one of the best places to look for encounters with this elusive predator.

From Ranthambore, we head to Shahpura enroute to Bera. Shahpura . The next morning we drive to Jawai Bandh and the village of Bera. Known for its large leopard population that lives amongst rocky outcrops in the common grazing lands of the Rabari herdsmen, Bera is amongst the finest destinations in India for leopard.

From Bera we travel to the Hill town of Mount Abu where we stay overnight enroute to the Little Rann of Kutch. The Little Rann of Kutch is an ecotone and comprises a saline marsh land with large expanses of salt covered mud flats. This area serves as the transitional zone between the marine and terrestrial ecosytems and provides an important habitat for migratory birds. The area is also the last refuge of the Asiatic Wild Ass. The spectacle of thousands of flamingoes feeding on the rich waters of the Rann is an absolute photographers delight. The Golden Jackal, Indian Fox, Desert Fox, Striped Hayena, Wolf, Jungle Cat, Desert Cat, Caracal and Leopard are all found in the Little Rann along with several species of mongoose, hedgehogs, Indian Pangolin and Indian porcupine.

From the Little Rann of Kutch you will travel to the Blackbuck National Park of Velavadar. The area was the property of the Erstwhile Maharajah of Bhavnagar who used this area for hunting Blackbuck with his tame Cheetahs. The National Park was established in 1976 and is known for its semi-arid flat grasslands that have supported populations of the Lesser Florican, Indian Wolf and Blackbuck and is known for one of the largest harrier roosts in the world.

From Velavadar you drive to the Gir Forest National Park, the last home of the Asiatic Lion. The forests of Gir were the hunting grounds of the Nawabs of Junagarh. Established in 1965 with the aim of conserving the Lion, Sasan-Gir today is home to about 300 lions, about 300 leopards, the rusty-spotted cat, the chausingha (four-horned antelope), Chinkara (indian gazelle) and many other mammals. After three days at Gir, we drive to Diu to catch a flight back to Delhi.

After a day at leisure in Delhi, you head to the Himalayas and catch a flight to Leh, the capital of Ladakh, situated at a height of 3500m with a stunning 16th century palace in the background. The drastic altitudinal gain from Delhi requires complete acclimatization to be able to adapt to the new height. After acclimatizing at Leh for two nights, you drive to Hemis National Park in our quest for the Snow Leopard. Given the recent spate of sightings in the past few years, the area around the Rumbak catchment has proved itself as undoubtedly the best place in the world to try to sight this near mythical creature.

Since Snow Leopards are generally found at elevations between 3350-6500m, this epic adventure takes you through stunning Himalayan alpine and sub-alpine zones where vegetation is sparse and temperatures are extreme. Accompanying you are expert local guides whose expertise in this harsh terrain is unmatched and they use their intrinsic training to look for the minutest evidences like pugmarks, scrapes and scats to track this elusive cat. While you are on the lookout for the cat, you will have opportunities to observe and photograph the other unique mammals found in these mountains. The Bharal or Blue Sheep is the most common ungulate here and constitutes the main prey base of the Snow Leopard. The Tibetan Argali, the largest sheep in the world is found near Gandala Pass in this region and strangely unlike other ungulates it climbs higher up during the winter months. The Tibetan Wolf is also a possibility here and lesser mammals include the Red Fox, Royle’s Pika, Mountain Weasel, Stoliczka’s Mountain Vole and the Wooly Hare.

After an exhilarating week on the search for the Snow Leopards, you fly back to Delhi to rest and recuperate and then take your flights home.

Detailed Itinerary

Day 0: Arrive in Delhi

Day 01: Delhi-Ranthambore Tiger Reserve
Transfer to Ranthambore by an early morning train in time for lunch and the afternoon safari into the Tiger Reserve. The safaris are normally till about 6:00 pm. After the safari you return to the lodge and have an evening at leisure. Overnight at Hotel

Days 02-04: Ranthambore Tiger Reserve
With two safaris each day, you have plenty of opportunities to see and photograph the fauna and flora of the park and its incredible monuments and landscapes.

Day 05: Ranthambore Tiger Reserve – Shahpura
You leave after the morning safari for Shahpura enroute to Bera. Shahpura is the home of the rulers of Shahpura on the edge of lakes that form a verdant wetland refuge. You spend the evening at leisure here and stay overnight at Shahpura.

Day 06: Shahpura – Bera
The next morning you continue your drive to Bera. At Bera you check into your hotel and in the afternoon set off to look for the fabled leopards of Bera. The leopards of Bera have lived for over 150 years peacefully in and around human habitation. The spectacular countryside with bleak, barren desert like landscapes disrupted by protrusions of jet black rocks is the home of the Bera Leopard. 29 individual cats have been tracked here. The lack of natural prey has forced the leopards to be dependant on populations of Goats from the herds of the Rabari people and village dogs. These are supplemented by the occasional monkey or small prey opportunistically.

Day 07-09: Bera and Jawai Bandh
You continue to spend time tracking and photographing the leopards and also visit the Jawai Bandh reservoir to photograph migratory birds. Overnight at hotel in Bera

Day 10: Bera – Mount Abu
After the morning safari, we leave for Mount Abu. Enroute we stop at the Delwara Jain temples renowned for their exquisite carving. Overnight at Hotel.

Day 11: Mount Abu – Little Rann of Kutch
We leave early morning for Gujarat and the Little Rann of Kutch. The drive is about four hours. Afternoon safari in the Little Rann of Kutch to look for the Asiatic Wild Ass and birds like the McQueen’s Bustard. Overnight at Hotel

Day 12: Little Rann of Kutch

Full day of birding and safaris at the Little Rann of Kutch. Overnight at Hotel

Day 13: Little Rann of Kutch – Velvadar National Park
Velavadar is famous for its populations of Black buck and the populations of Indian Wolf that thrive on the Black buck. Afternoon safari in the savannah grasslands of the National Park. Overnight at Hotel

Day 14: Velavadar National Park – Gir Forest National Park
After the morning safari in Velavadar you drive to the Gir Forest National Park. After checking into the lodge, you embark on a safari to see the last remaining population of the Asiatic Lions in the world. Overnight at Lodge

Day 15: Gir Forest National Park
Full day on safari to photograph the Lions and other fauna and flora of the National Park

Day 16: Gir – Diu – Delhi
You leave Gir to drive to Diu from where you will taking connecting flights back to Delhi.

Day 17: Delhi
Day at Leisure in Delhi to prepare for your trip to the Himalayas and the Snow leopard.

Day 18: Delhi – Leh
Transfer to the domestic airport to board the flight for Leh. Arrive Leh and transfer to hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure as it is essential to acclimatize to the high altitude. You have the option to walk to the Leh market but we would recommend you just relax and let your body adjust to the lower levels of oxygen in the rarified air. Overnight at hotel

Day 19: Leh Introductory Tour
Morning attends prayer at Thiksey monastery and spend another day at leisure. Overnight at hotel

Day 20: Leh – Zingchen – Hemis National Park
Morning drive to Zingchen and trek to our tented camp at Husing Nallah. Afternoon scan the slopes near the camp to look for signs of the elusive Snow Leopard. Overnight in tents.

Day 21–27: Hemis National Park
The next week would be spent in the valleys of Husing, Tarbung and the Rumbak area; which offer us the best chance of sighting this elusive cat. During these days you will not follow a fixed itinerary and follow a plan based on the inputs of our accompanying team to maximize our chances of sighting Snow Leopards. Overnight in tents

Day 28: Hemis National Park to Ulley
Morning continue return trek to Zingchen and drive to Uley. Mammals that you can expect to see here are the Ladakh Urial, Asiatic Ibex here and the Tibetan Wolf. Overnight at Homestay

Day 29: Ulley – Leh – Delhi
You drive back to Leh to catch your flight back to Delhi. At Delhi you check into your hotel.

Day 30: Delhi
The last day of your trip is a day at leisure. You have the option of exploring Delhi, its monuments, food and culture before your flight home.