Asian Elephant

The Indian or Asiatic elephant (Elephas maximus), in fact has three recognised subspecies, E.m.maximus is found in Sri Lanka and is the largest, E.m.indicus in mainland Asia and E.m.sumatranus from Sumatra.  The Asiatic elephant reaches between 2 and 3.5m at the shoulder but their head is generally the highest point of the body.  On average males reach 2.75m at the shoulder and females are shorter at 2.4m, and although both sexes may grow tusks, these are much less visible (called tushes) or often absent in females.  Asian elephant tusks tend to curve inwards, many males also lack tusks, but record maximums have reached between 1.8 to 2.4m in length and 41-47kg in weight. The Asian elephant found in northern Borneo is around 20% smaller, with bigger ears, straighter tusks and a longer tail; sometimes referred to as a pygmy elephant, but is not currently classified as a separate subspecies by the ICZN.

Asiatic elephant skulls are twin-domed with a central indent, their ears are smaller and resemble the landmap of India, their lower lip is longer and narrower and their trunk is 1.5-2m long and finishes with one ‘finger’ or tip that allows it to grasp and manipulate objects against the underside of its trunk.  Their skin is grey and movable with wrinkles, though actually smoother than African elephants, and may become depigmented around the ears, trunk and neck. Asian elephants are more adept at using their feet in conjunction with their trunk when manipulating objects, feeding or displaying dominance.  They have 5 toenails on each front foot and 4 on each hindfoot, and fewer sets of ribs (up to 20) than their African cousins.

The largest wild population remains in India, an estimated 27,000 to 31,000 individuals, and more than 50% of these found in the southern states, for example Nagerhole, Periyar and Anamalai and around a third in the North East, at parks like Kaziranga and Nameri.  Although a smaller population in the Northern states like Uttarakhand, you still have a good chance to see wild herds at Dhikala in Corbett.

The Sri Lankan wild elephant population density is thought to be the highest across Asia, and is estimated at around 6000 individuals living mainly in the dry zones, including Uda Walawe, Yala Wilpattu and Minneriya National Parks and often outside protected areas.  At Minneriya hundreds of elephants gather during the dry season, between July and September, with multiple herds congregating in ‘The Gathering’. The population of Borneo pygmy elephants (Elephas maximus borneensis) in Sabah and Kalimantan is estimated to be fewer than 3500 individuals, visitors to Deramakot and Kinabatangan have a reasonable chance to see them during a 2 to 3 day stay. Join us on our 9 day Yala national park photography tour in December 2021, to see female elephants with their young calves.

Yala National Park Photography Tour

Sri Lanka leopard safaris in Yala national park remain one of the best big cat experiences found in Asia. On an island where they are the top predator bar none, they are much more diurnal in behaviour than in India’s wildlife sanctuaries, which thus provides much better opportunities for our wildlife photography holidays to Sri Lanka.  We have been travelling to Yala since 2002 and the safari camp we have hand picked has been chosen because it allows us to access the park from other gates and not have to queue at the main entrance gate which serves the larger hotels. Although we are likely to experience a Yala national park from decades ago, when there were only 10 to 12 jeeps driving around the 5 different zones. Each traveller will have access to a window seat and plenty of space for their camera equipment in a vehicle adapted for wildlife photographers. Ten jeep safaris in Yala will allow us to experience the entire park and focus on leopards, wild elephants and sloth bears.

Yala National Park consists of dry-mixed evergreen forests and scrublands along with open grasslands, water holes, brackish water lagoons and riverine forests. This park’s diverse habitat supports large numbers of mammals, such as spotted, barking and mouse deer, sambar, wild boar, water buffalo and the endangered sloth bear. This is also one of the best places in the country to see wild elephant and the rare leopard. Large water holes and lagoons support the high density of endangered crocodiles. You can also see large flocks of migratory and resident birds—142 species of birds have been recorded in the park. Of particular note is the rare black-necked stork, the largest bird in the country.

Please note, that this tour can easily be extended on a private basis to visit other wildlife sanctuaries or cultural locations of personal interest.

Style - Small Group Photographer
Duration (Excl. Flights) - 9
Activity Level
When to Go
  • Jan
  • Feb
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Price (Excl. flights)
£2650
Wilpattu Leopard and the Dolphins of Kalpitiya

Compared to the very popular Yala national park, Wilpattu will always be the ‘path less travelled’ and here it is more about the quality of your wildlife encounters, rather than the number. Accommodation near the park remains largely a choice of mobile tented camps on private land, but there is also now a slightly more traditionally built option (the Kulu bungalow is available as an upgrade). The real pay-off is the escape from the crowds and that more intimate connection with nature and wildlife. Kalpitiya became famous for Sperm Whale sightings, but between December and April it is also an incredible location for the resident spinner dolphins. You can have that perfect combination of a relaxed beach stay with marine wildlife tours that are not overly commerical and can often deliver amazing wildlife encounters.

Style - Bespoke Wildlife
Duration (Excl. Flights) - 9
Activity Level
When to Go
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
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Price (Excl. flights)
£1880
Two Sides of Yala with Uda Walawe and Central Highlands

Our first visit to Sri Lanka way back in 2002 included visit to Bundala, Uda Walawe and Yala national parks. While Yala is very much the jewel in the crown of Sri Lanka’s wildlife sanctuaries it is important to be transparent with visitors about excessive visitor numbers which have been caused by the building of a ferry/ cruise ship terminal just 1 hour away by road. Given we are writing this during the middle of the Corvid-19 pandemic, the future of the cruise industry is far from certain, but what is certain in that Wildlife Trails has its finger in the pulse of all wildlife sanctuaries in the country and has already designed this tour in such a way, as to avoid the busier areas of the park and provide our clients with the most natural and exciting wildlife safari experience possible. As well as including a short extension to Uda Walawe national park before arriving in Yala, we also take you right into the heart of the Central Highlands. Enjoy the clean mountain air, authentic bungalow accommodation and choose a walking tour which suits your abilities and interests. After your leopard safari in Yala and experiencing the beautiful eastern side of the park; with its mangrove forests and amazing bird life, you will drive west to Mirissa for your small boat whale watcing safaris looking for the largest animal in the world – Dondra Point is one of the best places to see the Blue Whale.

Style - Bespoke Wildlife
Duration (Excl. Flights) - 15
Activity Level
When to Go
  • Jan
  • Feb
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Price (Excl. flights)
£3560
Sri Lanka Leopard Safari at Yala National Park

The design of all our wildlife safaris focus on longer stays in the national parks and with this one week Leopard safari at Yala national park, our approach is no different. We prefer to break up the long drive from Colombo to Yala with interesting stops en route. Not only will these stops give you a break from the car, they will also allow you to immerse yourself more fully in both the culture and scenic beauty of this amazing island. If you are travelling during the whale watching season from December to April, we definitely recommend you visit Mirissa to enjoy an ethical whale watching tour which does not chase or get to close to the animals. Otherwise, we also often choose to include a night at Galle, as there are some wonderful markets, restuarants and an early walk around town before the heat builds up is always interesting. We can also look at stops at wildlife sanctuaries like Udawalawe and Bundala.

Style - Bespoke Wildlife
Duration (Excl. Flights) - 8
Activity Level
When to Go
  • Jan
  • Feb
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  • May
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  • Nov
  • Dec
Price (Excl. flights)
£2380
Rhinos and Tigers of Kaziranga National Park

In terms of timing Kaziranga has a relatively short season compared to the north and central parks; it reopens after the monsoon in November and closes at the end of April.  The main migratory bird season is mid-November to late February.  During late December and early January the early morning chill can result in some rather misty conditions that can hamper wildlife viewing (lifted by midday), and Christmas/ New Year is best avoided due to increased domestic and international visitors.  During January the process of grass burning begins, working on contained patches the elephant grass (and any invading trees) are burned, so for a short time mammals become more visible as they graze and move more openly on the new growth but within a few months it regains its enveloping height, meanwhile vegetation levels in the forest and riverine areas become more sparse. So on balance the best times can be mid-November to mid-December (if birds have a strong appeal) or mid February to late March (for increased mammal visibility) – the rhinos can be seen in all months.

Style - Bespoke Wildlife
Duration (Excl. Flights) - 7
Activity Level
When to Go
  • Jan
  • Feb
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  • May
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  • Aug
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  • Nov
  • Dec
Price (Excl. flights)
£1470
Primates, Rhinos & Hornbills in India

After spending 30 days in West Bengal and Assam during April 2018, Allan Blanchard and his friend and expert wildlife guide, Avijit Dutta, wanted to bring together the very best wildlife experiences these two beautiful states have to offer and put together a completely unique and unmatched Wildlife Trails small group wildlife tour of North East India. The result is a beautiful overland trip, visiting some of the regions most iconic wildlife sanctuaries; including Gibbon Sanctuary, Kaziranga, Manas, Pakke and Nameri. Far fewer international and domestic visitors make it across to these beautiful national parks and as a result we have the chance to enjoy the amazing wildlife without the crowds that can affect your enjoyment in north and central India.

Style - Bespoke Wildlife
Duration (Excl. Flights) - 16
Activity Level
When to Go
  • Jan
  • Feb
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  • Nov
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Price (Excl. flights)
£3490
Magical North East with the Elephant Gathering and Leopards of Yala

Although we have of course visited Sri Lanka multiple times before, it will be our first visit to Jaffna and the famous port of Trincomalee which is a whale watching hotspot in the ‘summer’ season. In August the sea conditions will be at their best on the north east coast and we can take advantage of this with both whale watching, snorkelling and diving opportunities. Jaffna will be an intoxicating mix of culture, food and history and we will also try to gain an understanding of how the north is rebuilding itself after the long conflict which causes so much devastation and suffering for the local Tamil population.

After filling up on culture, history, marine life and some coastal R&R, we focus on elephants, first with ‘the gathering’ at Minneriya where depending on recent activity we may in fact find the biggest herds at Kaudulla, Minneriya or Hurulu National Parks.  Then onward to Gal Oya with a wonderful diverse choice of activities, we will take a night time drive in the buffer forest, a morning guided walk and a boat safari hoping to catch sight of elephants as they ‘snorkel’ their way across the huge lake.  The route to our campsite at Yala for more elephants and of course the leopards, takes us via the hill country, with a train ride through tea country, treks to view the tallest waterfall in Sri Lanka, and to Ravana Falls, Little Adam’s Peak and/ or Ella Rock.

Style - Small Group
Duration (Excl. Flights) - 22
Activity Level
When to Go
  • Jan
  • Feb
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Price (Excl. flights)
£3850
Black Panther Wildlife Tour and Safari in Nagarhole Kabini Wildlife Trails

Black Panther wildlife safari in Nagarhole national park

Sometimes circumstances come together at just the right time in the world of wildlife travel and big cat safaris, to inspire you to put together a specialist photography wildlife tour that will focus on just one species; and this is exactly what we have here with this small group Black Panther safari in Nagarhole national park. Not only was I lucky enough while in India during May 2017 to make contact with a wildlife guide who has seen and photographed the Black Panther on a number of occasions; but he also agreed to be our main guide for the entire stay at Nagarhole national park – this is crucial to the success of the Black Panther wildlife tour due to the ‘intense’ bureaucracy in India’s national parks. Not only do we need to apply for special permissions to have the right type of vehicle for our photography group; we also need a wildlife guide at Nagarhole that can optimise our choice of zone or route in order to maximise our opportunities to see the Black Panther in Nagerhole.

Best time to see Black Panthers in Nagarhole national park?

According to sources in Nagarhole national park the best time of year to see the Black Panther is March and April, so on this basis we have meticulously planned our dates to (1) Avoid the very busy Easter Holidays and (2) Avoid some local holidays in South India to be at the park at a ‘relatively’ quieter time. This is relative, as with such a longer, specialised safari lasting 7 days, it is impossible to avoid the weekend; which is what we would normally do.

Nagarhole national park – what did we see during the March 2018 and 2019 tours?

Both trips in 2018 were a huge success, with both groups enjoying a single sighting of the Black Panther which was the main objective of the trip. However, even more enjoyable was the almost constant action inside the park, as we enjoyed up to 7 tiger sightings, 5 leopard encounters and multiple superb encounters with a pack of 8 wild dogs, that were an absolute joy to photograph. It is important to point out that a rapidly growing tiger population could make seeing leopards in general (not just the Black Panther) more difficult in the future, so we would strongly suggest visiting ASAP. We just completed our third trip for the Black Panther in March 2019 and this time we missed out on a sighting of the melanistic male leopard. However, the great combination of good quality tiger and leopard action continued for our group members.

Client feedback from 2018.

Seeing 6 tigers ( 3 very good sightings) and 4 leopards (one amazing sighting) in Nagarahole (including the one with the all important black features) was truly beyond our expectations. Arjun was really very helpfull in managing the jeep safaris into the park. We only had to go on a boat safari once and the 2 last days he even arranged it so we could go both morning and afternoon drives into zone A. Thanks Arnie

Just a brief note to thank you for a superb trip to Nagarahole. We were fortunate to see the black panther, albeit briefly, early on during the trip. It was not through lack of trying that we didn’t see him again but had excellent big cat sightings of leopard and tiger as well as other wildlife including elephant, squirrel, mongoose, otters and python. Good food and great company with Richard, Arnie and Edith. Thanks John

Style - Small Group
Duration (Excl. Flights) - 8
Activity Level
When to Go
  • Jan
  • Feb
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Price (Excl. flights)
£2710
Big Tigers of Corbett National Park

Corbett National Park was the first park to be brought under the ‘Project Tiger’ umbrella due to its magnificent scenery and large unspoilt wilderness area, which in turn supported a healthy tiger population. The reality for many visitors over the years had been occasional sightings glimpsed on elephant back and a feeling that the park is a better location for birders than more general wildlife enthusiasts; based on our visits in April 2006, April 2010 and March 2011 and our clients trips, we can confirm this view point is now completely redundant.

Not only does this beautiful park afford the visitor an excellent chance to see tiger, it also provides spectacular elephant sightings in the hotter months, with groups as large as 30 animals making the daily crossing over the Ramganga river. It is possible to view both wild elephant and tigers in a jeep safari from Dhikala, and the real highlight, is the rare chance to stay inside a Tiger Sanctuary at one of the simple lodges and you have a wildlife experience that rivals anything else in India.

Style - Bespoke Wildlife
Duration (Excl. Flights) - 7
Activity Level
When to Go
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec
Price (Excl. flights)
£1380
Clouded Leopards and the Imbak Canyon

A unique Borneo safari which few companies offer. Combining three stunning and very different wildlife locations to maximise your animal encounters. Dermakot is now famous in Borneo for the chance to see nocturnal species such as Clouded Leopard, Leopard cat and Malay Civets. It is always thrilling to enter a wildlife location that is still very much new and off the radar and our time walking and driving in Imbak Canyon is sure to reveal some amazing birds; including up to 8 Hornbill species. This pristine rainforest landscape is also an important sanctuary for rare and endangered species including the Bornean pygmy elephant, clouded leopard, orangutan, proboscis monkey, Bornean gibbon, grey, silver and red leaf monkeys.

Style - Small Group
Duration (Excl. Flights) - 12
Activity Level
When to Go
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec
Price (Excl. flights)
£2750
Small Wild Cat Nocturnal Safari in Deramakot and Kinabatagan

As we write this article in July 2020, we can say that with some confidence Dermakot wildlife reserve in northern Borneo is one of the best locations to see small wild cats in the whole of Asia. This is a combination of ideal habitat, extensive research and the huge amount of time spent on night drives within the reserve – the harder you work, the luckier you get. Genuine chances to see Clouded Leopard – Tarsier – Slow Loris – Leopard Cat and Marbled Cat.

Style - Bespoke Wildlife
Duration (Excl. Flights) - 11
Activity Level
When to Go
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec
Price (Excl. flights)
£2810
Rare Mammals and Birds of Borneo

Borneo is one of the best locations in asia for both specialist birds and mammals and our hand picked naturalists are genuine experts in all wildlife viewing; not just the charismatic larger mammals. Before travel we will provide you with a birding and mammal list and by includig several day in Mount Kinabalu national park, we increase our chances of spotting rare endemics, like the Whitehead’s Trogon, Whitehead’s Broadbill and Borneo Green Magpie. On the mammals side of things, we will be looking for Orangutan, Pygmy Elephant , Clouded Leopard,Tarsier, Slow Loris , Leopard Cat, Marbled Cat, Proboscis Monkey, Bornean Gibbon, Civet Cats, Flying Squirrels, Sunda Skunk, Maroon Langur, Grey Langur and a variety of reptiles.

Style - Bespoke Wildlife
Duration (Excl. Flights) - 14
Activity Level
When to Go
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
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Price (Excl. flights)
£4790
The Glory of Wild Sabah

When you combine Dermakot, Kinabatangan and Danum Valley within the same Borneo safari, you are without doubt looking at the most diverse and wildlife rich tour itinerary possible in Sabah.

HERE ARE JUST SOME OF WILD ANIMALS OF BORNEO YOU MAY ENCOUNTER

Orangutan – Pygmy Elephant – Clouded Leopard – Tarsier – Slow Loris – Leopard Cat – Marbled Cat – Sun Bear –      Rhinoceros Hornbill (and the other 7 species) – Proboscis Monkey – Bornean Gibbon – Civet Cats – Flying Squirrels – Estuarine Crocodiles – Sunda Skunk – Maroon Langur – Grey Langur and a variety of spectacular birds and reptiles.

Style - Small Group
Duration (Excl. Flights) - 13
Activity Level
When to Go
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec
Price (Excl. flights)
£2850