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Bengal tiger, burning bright…

The forests of India offer safari afficionados a diverting alternative to Africa – and no need to compromise on luxury.  

Between lean teak and lank grass, you see her: a flash of auburn and the glint of eyes able to spy chital in the deepest dark of night. Is she sleuthing the long stems for the scent of quarry, radar ears pricked for tell-tale chirrups? Or simply seeking shelter from the midday sun? And – asking on behalf of an old poet – ‘what immortal hand or eye could frame her fearful symmetry’?  

The lion might be the king of Africa’s savannah, but in India, the tiger is the maharajah – and among the star draws of a visit. India now presents an exciting alternative to the traditional safari destinations. Its answer to the Big Five? Asiatic leopard, Asian elephant, one-horned rhino, Asiatic lion, and – of course – the Bengal tiger. A look to the skies is just as fruitful; flamingos are pretty in pink, Indian rollers dazzle with iridescence, and rose-ringed parakeets sport a fetching green. All this colour should come as no surprise in the native land of the peacock.  

We’ve brought our pioneering luxury safaris beyond A&K’s homeland of Kenya, as far as the grizzly-galumphed pines of Canada, the whalebreached waters of Antarctica, and indeed India – whose characterful animals so inspired Rudyard Kipling. Gone are the days when the privilege of admiring India’s wildlife meant making do with the bare necessities. More and more luxury safari camps are opening their canvas doors, affording privileged access to the country’s 106 national parks… 

India’s Perfect Pairings: Parks and camps that promise adventure by day, luxury by night

Ranthambore & Aman-i-Khas 

Named after the 10th-century tumbledown fort at its southern edge, Ranthambore is where the maharajahs of Jaipur once hunted for leisure. In 1973, Indira Gandhi’s government transformed this part of rural Rajasthan into a tiger reserve. Today, you can explore Ranthambore’s forests, lakes and grasslands on guided 4x4 safaris – best timed between October and May. As well as tiger, keep your eyes peeled for leopard, marsh crocodile, sloth bear, sambar deer, and some 250 species of nesting bird.  

On the periphery of Ranthambore lies the Aman-i-Khas camp. As you’d expect from an Aman property, it offers accommodation fit for a maharajah. The 10 air-conditioned tented suites sprinkle the brushwood forest, and bear a Mughal-inspired design by Denniston’s Jean Michel Gathy. There is a dining tent, spa, and even a swimming pool evocative of India’s traditional stepwells. 

Jawai Bandh & Suján Jawai 

Surrounded by the sun-cracked scrub of the Pali district, Jawai Bandh glitters like an oasis. Umaid Singh, then-Maharajah of Jodhpur, commissioned this dam in 1946, and it’s now a habitat for a variety of eye-catching animals. Leopard – considered holy guardians by the local Rabari people – roam the area, as do hyena, jungle cat, crocodile and sloth bear. Here too you will find a variety of birds, from steppe eagle to greater flamingo.  

Placing you in prime position to enjoy this wildlife is Suján Jawai, a member of the esteemed Relais & Châteaux group. This 10-tent luxury safari camp sits amidst shrub-tufted granite and sun-beaten forest. Guests can enjoy wilderness drives, horse-riding experiences, and nature walks with Rabari herdsman, whose striking red turbans threaten to upstage even the spottiest of leopards.  

Pench & Jamtara Wilderness Camp

The setting of Kipling’s The Jungle Book is an amalgam of the real and imagined, but several mentions of ‘Seoni’ place the fables partly within the wilds of Madhya Pradesh – home to Pench National Park. This sprawl of teak forest and grassland is a habitat for Shere Khans, Baloos and Tabaquis (tiger, sloth bear and jackal). Gaur, sambar and nilgai also graze the area, while some 285 bird species may be spotted overhead.  

Based close to Pench, Jamtara Wilderness Camp provides superlative accommodation for safari goers. Ten en-suite tents with roll-up fronts and reclaimed-wood flooring overlook the forest. In addition to the safari thrills, guests can enjoy a culture walk in the nearby village of Jamtara, unwind with a book from the library, and sleep under the stars on a machaan – a raised bed traditionally used by farmers to keep an eye on their crops during the night. 

Kanha & Banjaar Tola

Kanha is another excellent tiger reserve close to Seoni that can claim the Kipling connection. Established in 1955, it is the largest national park in central India, and where you can hope to spot tiger, leopard, jackal, sloth bear, Indian fox, dhole, gaur, and about 300 different bird species – from the Lilliputian green bee-eater to the Brobdingnagian vulture. A first for India, Kanha even has its own animal mascot: Bhoorsingh the Barasingha. 

Banjaar Tola is a Taj property set in an enviable riverside position overlooking Kanha and surrounded by forest, meadows, and a seasonal lake. This safari lodge encompasses two camps of nine tented suites, all featuring locally crafted furniture and bamboo floors. Both camps boast a swimming pool, lounge, and dining area – where guests can sample farm-to-fork cuisine that showcases tribal flavours. 

Nagarhole & Evolve Back Kabini

Nagarhole (literally ‘cobra river’ in the local language) was once a hunting ground for Mysore royalty. In 1999, it was declared India’s 37th tiger reserve, and is now one of the best safari destinations in the south of the country. This lush landscape of deciduous forest is home to Asian elephant, leopard, tiger, jungle cat, gaur, chital and sambar deer. In the canopy overhead, look out for bonnet macaque, grey langur and flying squirrel, as well as 250 species of bird.  

Hidden away on the banks of the nearby Kabini Reservoir, you’ll find Evolve Back Kabini. Here, nature is literally on the doorstep, meaning you can continue your safari from the comfort of the lodge’s five-star facilities. Options awaiting guests after a day of adventure: a cool dip in the infinity or family pool, a book with a view at the reading lounge, or an ayurvedic treatment to relax and revitalise. 

Kaziranga & Diphlu River Lodge

Kaziranga is a playground for pachyderms. This national park in north-east India hosts two thirds of the world’s population of greater one-horned rhino, as well as being a home for Asian elephant. UNESCO designated the park a World Heritage Site in 1985, and it continues to be an important breeding ground for several at-risk species. Guided tours by 4x4 take you through the jungle, grasslands and wetlands to admire the diverse wildlife.  

A rustic retreat on the edge of Kaziranga, Diphlu River Lodge earned the royal seal of approval in 2016 when it hosted the then Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Accommodation comprises 12 thatch-roofed cottages, raised on stilts and set amidst the greenery. In addition to safaris into the park, guests can take a dolphin-spotting cruise on Brahmaputra river, help wash domesticated elephant, and witness traditional Assamese dancing. 

In Search of Tiger

10 nights from £5,995

For those in search of tiger, our tiger safaris in India offer the chance to see this elusive creature in the wild

Jamtara Wilderness Camp

India's National Parks, India

Each tent of the 10 tents has been designed with luxurious features and feels light and open, with views across the surrounding wilderness

Evolve Back Kabini

South India, India

Set on the banks of the Kabini River, enchanting views over the lush landscape are ubiquitous at Evolve Back Kuruba Safari Lodge, Kabini

Diphlu River Lodge

India's National Parks, India

The Diphlu River Lodge is set amidst a lush green jungle environment, right at the border of Kaziranga National Park