Nepal’s elephant guides only give a maximum of four rides a day, so the animals don’t get tired out.
Venture To The Jungles Of NEPAL
An eight-day safari tour with Tourradar costs $3,000 with full accommodation and transport.
The spectacular Chitwan National Park lives up to its status as a World Heritage Site – and Nepal’s first national park is home to 68 mammal species. The park also shelters numerous bird species such as the giant hornbill and Asian openbill stork.
Safari lover Lauren Calbeck, who went to Chitwan National Park last year, describes her experience: “The park is huge, so try to spend at least two days exploring the place. I didn’t see any animals on my first afternoon, but on the second day at 3pm, I spotted a herd of 10 rhinoceroses basking in the water holes!”
Tourists will get a chance to see the one-horned rhinoceros that’s native to Nepal during the warmer months from October to December.
To improve the chances of spotting these endangered creatures, the national park provides a 90-minute guide service on an elephant. This lowers the chances of a rhinoceros attack (at the sight of a much larger animal). Instead of ferrying up to four passengers, the elephant only carries a maximum of two people, including the mahout.
WHERE TO STAY
The 30-room luxury lodge made its debut along Nepal’s Rapti River last year, opposite the Chitwan National Park that is home to some of the world’s most endangered cats, as well as rhinoceros and wild gharials. The lodge offers comprehensive guided tours and park activities. From $500 a night. www.tajhotels.com
A 15km trek into Cat Tien National Park will lead you to Bau Sau Crocodile Lake.
Venture To The Night Safari Of VIETNAM
A two-day tour costs $500 by Natural World Safaris.
While many safaris are best explored at the break of dawn, Vietnam’s oldest wildlife reserve comes alive at dusk. The night safari programme is unique to Cat Tien National Park as the animals there are mostly nocturnal.
A three-hour bus ride from Ho Chi Minh City, the national park is a regular spot for wildlife aficionados.
Minh Tu, a part-time wildlife guide at Cat Tien National Park, says: “At night, you can see animals like the elusive clouded leopard, Owston’s civet, and even Asian elephants in the national park.”
The main reason why it’s so affordable to visit this national park is because it provides a free-and-easy safari tour.
Here, eco-friendly walkways made out of reclaimed wood are strategically placed so visitors can still explore the reserve without a jeep.
You pay a fixed fee of about $4, and you’re free to roam the park. But having a guide will increase your chances of getting up close with the safari animals.
Minh Tu adds: “You can still spot the native langurs in the day, but it’s best to get a guide for the night safari. Visitors also have the option of taking a jeep, all-terrain vehicle or renting a bicycle to explore the fauna at the national park.”
You can either pay for a guide from one of the tourist booths located at the entrance of the park, or book a safari tour from travel companies such as Natural World Safaris.
WHERE TO STAY
Forest Floor Lodge
Everything is back to basics at this fuss-free stay with a jungle experience. Nestled in Cat Tien National Park, the lodge has some rooms that overlook the beautiful river rapids. Guided walking tours are also available. The facilities include a restaurant, room service and free Wi-Fi. From $120 a night. www.forestfloorlodges.com
Venture To The Marshes Of SRI LANKA
A 14-day trip by Lightfoot Travel costs about $4,800 with accommodation and jeep service.
Wake up at 3am to camp out at Sri Lankan National Park to see the elephants? No problem. For regular safari-goer Pamela Wong, a non-sighting isn’t a disappointment. Instead the Singaporean finds ways to increase her chances of spotting the animals.
“It’s all part of the wildlife experience,” quips Pamela, a marketing consultant who has been living in Colombo for five years.
She makes time to go on safari expeditions at various national parks every chance she gets.
Pamela recalls: “The first time I went to Udawalawe National Park, I didn’t see many animals. It was a dry year, and the guide had prepared us for non-sightings.
“In 2017, I went to Minneriya National Park and saw 20 elephants grazing at 5am!” The 38-year-old, who toured with four other tourists at that time, stayed at the private bungalows at Kuwera Eco Lodge, which is a 30-minute drive from the national park.
Her guide told the group that there was a 40 per cent chance of seeing the animals that morning. This is because Sri Lankan elephants typically Spot rare birds such as the painted stork. sleep for two to three hours, usually anytime from 1am to 6am.
In recent years. more Singaporeans are going on wildlife expeditions, with more wildlife and travel specialist companies such as Lightfoot Travel. Its co-founder and director Lucy Jackson says there is a great interest in booking Sri Lankan wildlife tours.
This year, they have singled out Yala National Park as one of the most popular Sri Lankan safaris to visit.
The national park is a huge area of forest, grassland and lagoons bordering the Indian Ocean, in the south-eastern part of Sri Lanka.
It’s home to wildlife such as elephants, leopards and crocodiles, and rare birds like the painted stork. There are several camps located throughout the national park. Jeeps can be arranged to make travelling in the safari a lot safer.
“The best time for animal sightings is early morning,” recommends Jo Upcraft, an avid safari-goer and Lightfoot’s content editor.
WHERE TO STAY
Kumana Safari Camp
This is a mobile tent camping experience, as well as a sustainable tourism initiative to support the local community. Campers are hosted by the English-speaking team from the nearby Panama village. The campsite is along the river bordering Kumana National Park and Yala National Park’s Zone II. You can see the wildlife walk or cross the river near the camp. From $700 a person for two nights. www.absolutesrilankansafari.com/kumana-safari-camp.html
Venture To The Forests Of INDIA
For 14 days, Andbeyond offers an affordable package between $7,000 and $8,000 for accommodation, access to national parks and guided tours.
The woods are silent and the path, slightly damp. There’s a slight rustling in the bushes. Blink and you’re less than 500m away from a Royal Bengal tiger. That’s exactly what Melinda Ong saw from the jeep when she visited the Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh, India, last year.
“It was my first time coming so close to the majestic creature,” raves Melinda, 37, a freelance copywriter, who has gone on more than five safari trips in the last three years. In India, the national parks are protected by a strict tiger conservation policy and this results in a higher chance of a sighting.
“The best time to go wild tiger spotting in India is between April and June,” Melinda adds.
“For some national parks, you have to book your entry tickets early because they limit the number of guests in a day during peak periods.”
Some wildlife enthusiasts head to India to see sloth bears and desert foxes, says Anita Raoul, a safari expert who regularly visits the Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan.
She explains: “The sloth bears are an endangered species that many don’t know about. Although they’re insect-eaters, they can be territorial. They may attack humans if you accidentally set foot in their territory.”
Getting a guide is the best way to avoid rifling the animals. The guide will know his way around and you’ll be able to spot rare wildlife you wouldn’t have known about.
Travel company Andbeyond owns the 758sq km Pench National Park in Delhi. It has put in significant effort to protect visitors – and the wildlife there. It’s home to a cosy nest of numerous wild animals including the peafowl, barking deer, four-horned antelope and Indian wolf.
“The safari experts in the team are seasoned explorers who can keep the guests safe,” says Suhail Gupta, Andbeyond’s managing director.
Always maintain a safe distance when you spot a tiger.
WHERE TO STAY
Oberoi Vanyavilas Wildlife Resort
This is India’s first luxury jungle resort located 180km from Jaipur, and it borders the Ranthambore National Park and Tiger Reserve.
The luxury tented accommodation is inspired by the caravans of India’s royal families. Here, you can enjoy a meal inside a mango orchard under glowing lanterns. From $1,000 a night. www.oberoihotels.com
Venture To The River Safari Of BORNEO
An eight-day trip with accommodation costs $1,300 by Tourradar.
You can only hear crickets chirping, the occasional owl hoot and the water rippling when cruising down the Kinabatangan River in the evening Shine the torchlight into the river and two tiny orbs stare back at you. Those are the eyes of a saltwater crocodile, says Roy Lee, a Kinabatangan River safari expert.
But many don’t go there just for the crocodiles.
Pygmy elephants – the smallest species of elephants in the world – are also native to Borneo’s exotic wildlife. You can find them drinking from the river when you’re cruising at night.
Roy shares: “There are also day trips for those who prefer to bird-watch and see the orangutans.”
The best time to visit the river safari is during the dry season between March and October.
Clouded leopards can be spotted lazing in the trees.
A full Bornean safari experience in Sabah also includes visiting the various specialist conservatories.
Travel companies Natural World Safaris and Tourradar organise trips to places like the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sandakan, where orphaned or displaced orangutans are given shelter.
Across the road, you can find baby sun bears at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre.
Says Tan Mee Yun, a 35-year-old teacher who visited the animal sanctuaries with her students last year: “The conservation centres are built in an open manner where there are no fences. The animals foraged for fallen fruits and played about a metre away from us.”
The Borneo safari is by far the most affordable experience in Asia.
WHERE TO STAY
Borneo Rainforest Lodge
Located deep in the Danum Valley Conservation Area, the chalets are installed with ceiling fans instead of air-conditioning. It now has new villas and double-storey chalets, which come with an outdoor tub attached to a viewing deck.
From $1,000 a person for a three-day trip (includes accommodation, trek on the nature trail and canopy walkway, safari night drive, trek to Coffin Cliff, and a visit to the natural jacuzzi pool). www.borneonaturetours.com
Safari Survival Guide
Pack right to equip yourself for the wild.
1. Rockrider Hydration backpack,$35 2. Steppe 100 sun hat, $9.90 3. Quechua Island Green Camo Hunting backpack, $20 4. Quechua Trek 900 Wind Women’s Mountain Hiking jacket, $50 5. Quechua backpack with rain cover, $5.90 6. Onpower 110 2600mAh travel charger, $10 7. Aptonia Sun Roll-on SPF50, $13 8. Quechua Hiking binoculars, $30 9. Quechua polarised sunglasses, $30 10. Quechua MH500 Mid Women’s Waterproof Mountain Hiking boots, $90. All from Decathlon.
TEXT HAYLEY TAI PHOTOS 123RF, SHUTTERSTOCK & ALAMY.COM