Be it mysteriously thick forests or dangerously deep valleys, choose to hop on to these gentle giants; riding on elephant-back gives you a never-before perspective of the breathtaking scenery and the thrilling chance to encounter wildlife at close quarters. Elephant safaris in India promises to be a unique experience that simply cannot be replicated through any other mode of travel.
There are many organized elephant safari tours in India. Adding this kind of tour to your itinerary will add a new dimension to your entire holiday experience that you are sure to cherish through a lifetime.
Where to go
Elephant Safaris are common in the forest areas of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Assam and the remote jungles of Northeast India. Almost all the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries situated across the country offer the Elephant Safari in an organized manner. It is the best way of transport in the dense and rugged terrains that cannot be accessed through jeeps or any other means.
[Exprience elephant riding and spot one horn rhinos at the famous Kaziranga National Park]
In addition, the elephants are undaunted animals; while riding on their backs, you do not have to fear other wild animals. These safaris are the safest way to experience the remotest parts of the jungles.
What you need to know
There are many Elephant Safari tour operators in India. They take the entire responsibility of organising tours and provide well-trained mahouts and guides in order to give you a fruitful and fulfilling experience.
Mounting on the elephant’s back requires a written permission from the Field Director in every national park. In order to avoid disappointment, it is recommended that you book these rides well in advance.
Some national parks do not offer prior booking and operate rides on a “first come, first served” basis. Safari timings and operability also depends on the availability of elephants. Hence, it is advisable to contact the park officials before planning for the trip.
[Explore the exotic wilderness of Kerala while trekking and touring the Chimmony wildlife sanctuary]
It is recommended that you visit the Safari offering regions during favorable climatic conditions. In the winter months, the jungle is barely visible under the impact of fog. It is paramount to choose appropriate timings when the forest would be haze-free.
Elephant Safaris in India are not permissible during rainy days and other fixed days when the park is closed to visitors due to maintenance purposes. Hence, it is advisable to contact the park officials and check on the weather conditions before paying a visit.
What you must carry
Elephant Safaris in India should be undertaken in comfortable clothing. During summers, one should opt for loose-fitting hassle free clothes. In addition, things like hats, umbrellas, sunscreen, goggles, and a first-aid kit should be added to your checklist.
[Witness the unique wildlife in Kerala and the Anamalai Tiger Reserve]
As the safari spans over hours, it is important to carry enough water to prevent dehydration. Make sure your luggage packed for the ride is compact as the seat fastened to the elephant’s back obviously comes with space limitations.
Dos and don’ts
Do not throw plastic, paper or eatables in the park area. Tampering with wildlife is strictly prohibited inside the park premises; this can invite unwanted as well as unknown problems.
[Visit the evergreen and bountiful rainforests the Silent Valley National Park in Kerala]
The mounted elephant should be treated well and with due care and affection throughout the trip. Photography inside the premises requires a special ticket and photographers are instructed not to interfere with or otherwise disturb the park’s fauna and flora.
Top elephant safaris in India:
Corbett National Park in Uttaranchal and the Kaziranga Wildife Sanctuary in Assam come under the Himalayan region. The elephants waddle through the wildlife sanctuaries at their own pace which gives the tourists enough time to absorb the scintillating view of the Himalayas and etch them in their memory to last a lifetime.
Tigers, Lions, Leopards, Wild Boars, Sloth Bears, Rhesus, Jackals, Antelopes, and One Horned Indian Rhinos can easily be spotted during the Safari.
1. Elephant Safari in Jim Corbett National Park
Jim Corbett National Park is India’s first national park. It is indeed the most important attraction of Uttaranchal. Situated in the Patlidun Valley at the base of the Himalayas and the banks of the river Ramaganga, this tiger reserve is blessed with revered species of fauna and flora.
Corbett National Park is divided into five different zones. Among these five zones, the Dhikala and Bijrani tourist zones offer remarkable Elephant and Jungle Safaris.
[Thrill yourself touring through a tiger safari in Corbett National Park and rafting in Rishikesh]
A natural habitat of the magnificent Bengal tiger, Corbett National Park is treasured for its large leopard and elephant population. It houses around 700 elephants and this giant mammal can be easily seen grazing through the park.
The only way to see the sacred wildlife activities here is from the back of an elephant. Elephant Safaris in India can take you to the unexposed regions and give you an adrenaline rush like never before.
This royal mammal gracefully takes you through deep valleys, dense forests and craggy trails, offering views of the picturesque landscape from dizzying heights.
The Corbett National Park is well known for its Asian Elephants. Also found here are Spotted Deer, Barking Deer, Sambar, Ghoral, Rhesus and Langur Monkey, Wild Boar, Jackal, Civets, Porcupine, Bengal Tiger, Leopard, Hog Deer and Sloth Bear.
Around the Ramaganga River, Mugger or the fresh water Crocodile, Gharial, Otters, Turtles, and a variety of fish can be seen. Reptile species include Monitor Lizards, King Cobra, and Rock Pythons.
[Explore nature and wildlife the very first national park in the country]
This park is home to more than 585 species of birds, and is a veritable paradise for bird lovers. Tawny Fish Owls, Crested and Stork-billed Kingfishers, Himalayan Flame Back, the exquisite Wall Creeper and Red-billed Blue Magpie are a few of the exceptional species that can be spotted here easily.
Not just birds, there are 7 species of amphibians, 33 species of reptiles, 7 species of fish and 37 species of dragonflies that make this park a highly sought-after destination.
Elephant Safari is the most promising ride in this park. Skilled elephants keep back other wandering wild animals and offer you incredible sightseeing opportunities. Sighting a Bengal Tiger chasing its prey, a majestic parade of elephants and other fascinating sights of wildlife in motion, all can be overwhelming experiences.
2. Elephant Safari in Bandhavgarh National Park
The Bandhavgarh National Park that spreads only for 105 sq km is the place with the highest density of tigers in India. It is located in the heart of the country, in the state of Madhya Pradesh about 200 km Northeast of Jabalpur.
This park never disappoints its visitors and offers splendid views of the royal beast and 22 species of other mammals such as the jackal, the fox, the Rhesus monkey and the hyena. Equally rich in housing birds, this place has about 200 species of birds including Jerdon’s leaf bird, the crested serpent eagle, the variable hawk eagle, and the pigeon.
[Spot the royal Bengal tiger while on a Bandhavgarh Wildlife tour]
The village of Tala, situated on the right side of the park's main gate is a place of heart-warming allure. Tourists flock in great numbers to enjoy the lovely meadows and charming valleys with a backdrop of the enticing Vindhya hills.
The scintillating tiger tour or tiger show offered by the management of this reserve is a jaw-dropping experience designed to leave you spellbound. The show lasts about 10-15 minutes and provides a spectacular view of tigers wandering in their natural habitat. It is organised in a very systematic manner where trackers pass on the information about the tiger’s current location in the park to the control room.
The officials then direct the safari organisers to the exact location and hence provide the perfect route for spotting the beasts. Elephant Safari is ideal for this tiger tour. Those on a budget or time constraint can opt for this short tour instead of the longer Elephant Safari tours.
[Set off on wildlife expedition in Bandhavgarh and get up close with nature]
Trained elephants take you to the remotest areas with so much ease and grace that you are sure to lose yourself in the splendid beauty of the region. The tigers of Bandhavgarh make an appearance every now and then, leaving you awestruck at their sheer majesty.
Following these deadly beasts at such close quarters need no longer be a dream. Nature and animal lovers can now actually experience this with the Elephant Safaris of this park. Photography enthusiasts will find this park an extreme delight for their lenses! The much-acclaimed Elephant Safari organised in the Maghadi and Tala zone of this park deserves a special mention. It truly brings alive the untouched beauty of these lush forests -- an experience like none other indeed!
3. Elephant Safari in Kanha National Park
Kanha National Park is situated in the central state of Madhya Pradesh and spreads across an area of 940 sq km. Also a tiger reserve, this park has the unique distinction of being the sole inspiration behind Rudyard Kipling’s masterpiece 'The Jungle Book'.
The dense and spectacular forests with a thick growth of sal and bamboo tress against a backdrop of the Maikal hills, make the landscape extremely picturesque and grandiose in terms of vegetation and foliage. An amalgamate of moist and dry deciduous forests, valley meadows and plateau meadows, this park is home to some of the world’s richest species of fauna and flora.
[Seeking adventure? Kanha National Park is a heaven for wildlife adventure lovers]
The safari at Kanha National Park is very popular and routinely sought out by nature enthusiasts, adventure-seekers, filmmakers, photographers and educationists throughout the world for the richness it has to offer. It truly showcases the maginificent natural beauty that the park is endowed with.
Elephant Safari is the only mode of transport through the hilly terrains, muddy valleys and luxuriant grasslands of the Kanha National Park. There are three safari zones in Kanha: Kanha, Mukki and Sarhi, where organised Elephant Safari takes place in order to provide a vivid and vibrant sightseeing experience every time.
The park is renowned for its high probability of spotting tigers. Elephant Safaris in India also offers glimpses of bison, gaur, sambhar, chital and the world famous barasingha, which are the other star attractions here.
Kanha is the most sought after destination for its varieties of fauna including about 300 species of avifauna. Asian Paradise Flycatcher, White Rumped Shama, White Bellied Drongo, Spangled Drongo, Racket Tailed Drongo and Tawny Babbler are some of these fascinating species. A daylong safari in this park is a highly rewarding experience as the park is packed with undaunted wildlife and breathtaking natural beauty.
[Experience the jungles of Ranthambore Pugmark, one of the largest tiger reserves in India]
The Elephant Safari at Kanha requires prior booking for the day-long tour. But you can also opt for the smaller tour offered in the Kanha Park premises which lasts about 5-10 minutes and yet offers assured views of the royal tigers wandering in the wild.
This is a paid tour which does not require any advance booking and the ticket for which can be obtained from the park authorities then and there. This tour can be organised only during the morning safari time when the day is bright and sunny. The Kanha National Park is open to the public from the month of October to June.
4. Elephant Safari in Kaziranga National Park
Kaziranga National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site, is located in the Golaghat and Nagaon districts of Assam. The oldest park of the state, it spans across an area of 378 sq km and is incredibly bound by the mighty Brahmaputra. This safari is in a class of it own from the other elephant safaris in India.
This National Park tells awe-inspiring success stories of conservation of the vulnerable One-horned Indian Rhinoceros and many other species of Northeastern India. Moderate and favourable climate combined with the availability of healthy resources of food, supports the growth and survival of a unique and diverse wildlife in the park and surrounding regions.
[The Kaziranga wildlife sanctuary is a treat for all wildlife lovers and photographers]
This park is divided into 4 different zones: Kaziranga Range, Bagori Range, Agaratoli Range and Burapahar Range. The Bagori Range offers close-up views of the great Indian one-horned rhinoceros. Wildlife here mainly includes elephants, tigers, buffaloes, gaur, monkeys, deer, otters, badgers, leopards and wild boars.
The vegetation here is a mixture of inundated grasslands comprising tall thickets of elephant grass and short grasses, tropical wet evergreen forests and tropical semi-evergreen forests.
What makes this elephant safari in India unique is the diversity of flora that makes Kaziranga an ideal home to thousands of migratory birds from distant lands as far away as Siberia. Exotic Northeastern bird species like Collard Treepie, Green-tailed and Ruby-cheeked Sunbird and Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker also flock to this Park. It promises to be a veritable birdwatchers' paradise!
Elephant trekking is possible throughout this park except in the Burapahar Range, which can be reached only via a jeep. Elephant safari in the central region is fully operated by the government and is more productive in contrast to the privately operated safaris in other regions.
The safari here lasts about 1.5-2 hours and it is the best way to traverse through the coarse elephant grass. Bookings are done on the spot and on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. In addition to the Elephant Safari, tourists can also opt to cruise in the Brahmaputra River and get a view of the reptile species that breed in this park.